How Does Hail Get to be the Size of a Grapefruit?

Spring is considered severe weather season in the Central US and on Tuesday the power of Mother Nature was on full display across the region. More than 300 severe storm reports were counted and the vast majority included very large hail.

In Kansas and Nebraska, hailstones the size of a grapefruit were reported. Those are balls of ice measuring about four inches in diameter. According to the NWS, once a thunderstorm produces hail with a one inch diameter or more it is considered severe. So, how does hail get that big?

The answer to that question lies with the speed of a storm’s updraft. Basically, the stronger the updraft, the longer the ice remains suspended in the cloud where it can grow larger. Below is a chart that shows approximately how strong an updraft has to be to support different sizes of hail.

The largest hailstone ever recorded fell in Vivian, South Dakota on July 23, 2010 and measured eight inches in diameter – about the size of a volleyball. To support a hailstone that size, the updraft likely exceeded 150mph.

Credit: NWS

Credit: NWS

One thought on “How Does Hail Get to be the Size of a Grapefruit?

  1. Pingback: Severe Weather Outbreak in Midwest brings Oklahoma an EF-4 Tornado | The Weather Gamut

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