If your car has ever been damaged by a hailstorm, you know that hailstorms can be surprisingly destructive events. Even the smallest hailstones can cause dents, dings, and property damage, and it’s important to protect your belongings before the storm comes.
But do you know how hail works, why it forms, and how forecasters predict storms? Keep reading to learn more about the science behind hail so you can better assess and remedy hail damage on your car.
What is a Hail Storm?
A hail storm is a type of thunderstorm that produces hail, or chunks of solid ice, as a primary form of precipitation. These ice chunks, called hailstones, can vary in size, shape, and quantity, but they are always frozen solid.
Hailstorms are most common in “hail alley,” a central and southern region of the United States that is composed of Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and several others. These storms most frequently occur during summer, and generally last for only a few minutes.
What Is the Process of Hail Formation?
Hailstones form when water droplets are carried up into the atmosphere and freeze due to the below-freezing temperatures that occur at these extremely high altitudes. These water droplets are carried up by thunderstorm updrafts.
As the water droplets collide with other water droplets that are already frozen, hailstones grow in size. Eventually, due to a combination of the updraft weakening and the hailstone growing in weight, the updraft can no longer support the weight of the hailstone. This causes the stones to fall back down to the earth’s surface.
While hailstones usually grow to around 0.25 inches or 0.5 inches in diameter, occasionally, if the conditions are just right, they can grow much larger. One of the largest hailstones ever recorded was a whopping 2.25 pounds!
How Do Forecasters Predict When Hail Will Fall?
On a simple level, predicting hailstorms is a matter of analyzing how likely existing weather conditions are to create hail. Hail conditions include adequately strong updrafts, particles of dust or ice for hail to grow upon, and general thunderstorm conditions.
On a more advanced level, forecasters use a variety of technologies to forecast specifics about hailstorms, with the most common method being radar detection.
Doppler radar uses the doppler effect to record and analyze data about the velocity of objects, such as rain, hail, or other precipitation. This is done by letting a microwave signal bounce off a target and analyzing how the motion of the target alters the returned signal.
With this technique, hail appears as heavy rain. This is usually combined with other forms of advanced technology, such as dual-polarization radar, to analyze more detailed data about the size of the hail.
What are the Most Common Types of Damage Hail Storms Cause?
While hail can cause serious damage to homes, businesses, and other structures, the most common concern for the average person is hail damage to their car.
Since cars are normally left out in the open and are made of glass and metal (as opposed to more resilient materials like concrete), they are the most susceptible to getting dinged or dented during a hailstorm. Shattered, cracked, or broken windows and mirrors are also quite common, especially in storms with strong winds and large hailstones.
Hailstorms are an incredibly powerful and even mysterious force of nature that can cause a lot of destruction. Now that you know more about how they work, you can take extra precautions to protect yourself and your property against them.
And if your car has already recently been damaged by hail, repairs are always available. If you want an idea of how much repairs will cost, try out this hail damage repair cost calculator.