What Makes a Thunderstorm?

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Every Thunderstorm Needs:

  • Moisture - to form clouds and rain.
  • Unstable Air - relatively warm air that can rise rapidly.
  • Lift - fronts, sea breezes, and mountains are capable of lifting air to help form thunderstorms.

Life Cycle of a Thunderstorm

Developing Stage

  • Towering cumulus cloud indicates rising air.
  • Usually little if any rain during this stage.
  • Lasts about 10 minutes.
  • Occasional lightning during this stage.

Mature Stage

  • Most likely time for hail, heavy rain, frequent lightning, strong winds, and tornadoes.
  • Storm occasionally has a black or dark green appearance.
  • Lasts an average of 10 to 20 minutes but may last much longer in some storms.

Dissipating Stage

  • Rainfall decreases in intensity.
  • Some thunderstorms produce a burst of strong winds during this stage. 
  • Lightning remains a danger during this stage. 

Click here to learn when a storm may strike and who's most at risk.