A thunderstorm, also known as an electrical storm, a lightning storm, thundershower or simply a storm is a form of turbulent weather characterized by the presence of lightning and its acoustic effect on the Earth's atmosphere known as thunder. The meteorologically assigned cloud type associated with the thunderstorm is the cumulonimbus. Thunderstorms are usually accompanied by strong winds, heavy rain and sometimes snow, sleet, hail, or no precipitation at all. Those that cause hail to fall are called hailstorms. Thunderstorms may line up in a series or rainband, known as a squall line. Strong or severe thunderstorms may rotate, known as supercells. While most thunderstorms move with the mean wind flow through the layer of the troposphere that they occupy, vertical wind shear causes a deviation in their course at a right angle to the wind shear direction.
Thunderstorms result from the rapid upward movement of warm, moist air. They can occur inside warm, moist air masses and at fronts. As the warm, moist air moves upward, it cools, condenses, and forms cumulonimbus clouds that can reach heights of over 20 km. As the rising air reaches its dew point, water droplets and ice form and begin falling the long distance through the clouds towards the Earth's surface. As the droplets fall, they collide with other droplets and become larger. The falling droplets create a downdraft of air that spreads out at the Earth's surface and causes strong winds associated commonly with thunderstorms.
Thunderstorms can generally form and develop in any particular geographic location, perhaps most frequently within areas located at mid-latitude when warm moist air collides with cooler air. Thunderstorms are responsible for the development and formation of many severe weather phenomena. Thunderstorms, and the phenomena that occur along with them, pose great hazards to populations and landscapes. Damage that results from thunderstorms is mainly inflicted by downburst winds, large hailstones, and flash flooding caused by heavy precipitation. Stronger thunderstorm cells are capable of producing tornadoes and waterspouts. A 1953 study found that the average thunderstorm over several hours expends enough energy to equal 50 A-bombs of the type that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan during World War Two.
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There are four types of thunderstorms: single-cell, multicell cluster, multicell lines, and supercells. Supercell thunderstorms are the strongest and the most associated with severe weather phenomena. Mesoscale convective systems formed by favorable vertical wind shear within the tropics and subtropics are responsible for the development of hurricanes. Dry thunderstorms, with no precipitation, can cause the outbreak of wildfires with the heat generated from the cloud-to-ground lightning that accompanies them. Several methods are used to study thunderstorms, such as weather radar, weather stations, and video photography. Past civilizations held various myths concerning thunderstorms and their development as late as the 18th century. Other than within the Earth's atmosphere, thunderstorms have also been observed on Jupiter and Venus.
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Famous quotes containing the word thunderstorm:
“If you could choose your parents,... we would rather have a mother who felt a sense of guiltat any rate who felt responsible, and felt that if things went wrong it was probably her faultwed rather have that than a mother who immediately turned to an outside thing to explain everything, and said it was due to the thunderstorm last night or some quite outside phenomenon and didnt take responsibility for anything.”
—D.W. Winnicott (20th century)
“Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying,
Streams like the thunderstorm against the wind.”
—George Gordon Noel Byron (17881824)
“Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.”
—Thomas Mann (18751955)