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The Variability Of Hail

With hail formation being dependent on temperature and moisture levels throughout a storm cloud, predicting when we'll see those frozen droplets fall is difficult. Here is a general rundown of hail requirements. (as you will see, the list is long and heavily dependent on other factors).

First, you must have enough moisture in the area to make cloud formation possible. Here in eastern Carolina, there tends to be plenty of moisture due to our close proximity to the ocean.

Second, there needs to be enough lift (rapidly rising air) in the atmosphere to take the ground level moisture passed the freezing point high in the newly forming cloud. This lift is greatest when a cold front moves in to the area, forcing warmer air skyward as colder air moves in below.

Third, there needs to be enough water droplets rising passed the freezing point to make a hail stone heavy enough to fall back down to earth. Now this seems like it would be easy to accomplish but that is because we only see the hail that is heavy enough to meet this requirement. There are plenty of tiny ice crystals that don't quite meet the weight limit and stay suspended at the top of the cloud.

Fourth, the hail stones need to be large enough and cold enough to pass back in to warm air as it falls to the ground and not melt along the way. This is what could curb the hail potential today. The middle level of our atmosphere is slightly warmer than normal which will lead to most of the hail melting before it hits the ground.

There is still a slight chance we could see some hail in portions of eastern Carolina, however most of us stuck under thunderstorms will see heavy downpours and lightning.

It's never easy predicting whether or not our area will see hail producing thunderstorms, and today's storms are no different.


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