Breakdown: What the hail - how it forms and why

Breakdown: What the hail - how it forms and why

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - This summer, much of the Mid-South has endured strong thunderstorms that have not only had a lot of lightning but also had more than their fair share of hail.

Hail is formed when strong updrafts lift ice crystals, water droplets, and vapor into the upper levels of a thunderstorm where air temperatures are at or below freezing.

There, this combination of ice crystals, water droplets, and super cooled water vapor form hailstones. The hailstone can then grow as updrafts and downdrafts carry it up and down within the thunderstorm, allowing it to grow in size with each move up into the coldest parts of the storm cell.

As the hailstone becomes larger, its weight allows it to fall into the warmer part of the cloud where there is some melting, but if the updraft of the storm is strong enough it will force the hailstone back up into the cold layer where it is surrounded by super cooled water droplets that adhere to the hail stone and cause it to grow even more.

This pattern continues until the stone reaches a weight that the updraft can no longer support of the updrafts weaken and the hailstone falls to the surface.

If you ever see a hailstone with rings, that is a clear sign of the hailstone's multiple trips up and down within a thunderstorm, allowing it to grow with each pass and form the rings you see.

Although hail can be a sight to see, it can also cause billions of dollars in damage to crops and property.

Hail can measure anywhere from pea size to grapefruit size and larger. Can you imagine a grapefruit-sized hailstone falling on your property?

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.