Baseball-Sized Hail Is Set to Shower North America

iStock
iStock

If climate change continues to go unchecked, enormous hail—much like the kind that battered the Denver area last month—could very well become the new normal in some regions of North America.

That's according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change, which tracked the impact of climate on the frequency and scale of hailstorms in the coming years. It found that, while climate change is likely to significantly reduce the number of hailstorms, the size of the hail formed in these episodes will increase, accumulating larger than 1.6 inches.

The regions most affected, the study predicts, will be the states in the central and northern plains. Conversely, the southern and southeastern portions of the U.S. will see a decreased threat.

Hail begins its life as a droplet of supercooled water. Then, rather than condensing into rain and falling, it freezes onto a condensation nucleus (dust, dirt) and bounces around like popcorn. This movement causes the hailstone to gather more layers of liquid.

Larger hailstones could have very drastic consequences for the environment, as well as property owners that dwell within the storm's reach. Last month, The Denver Post reported that its massive hail storm toppled power lines and led to multiple car crashes during rush hour. The damages brought to the state of Colorado were estimated to reach upwards of $1.4 billion.

What Is a Bomb Cyclone?

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The phrase bomb cyclone has re-entered the news this week as parts of the central U.S. face severe weather. Mountain and Midwestern states, including Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota, all fall in the path of a winter storm expected to deliver tornadoes, hail, heavy snow, flooding, and hurricane-force winds on Wednesday, March 13 into Thursday. It seems appropriate for a storm that strong to have bomb in its name, but the word actually refers to a meteorological phenomenon and not the cyclone's explosive intensity.

According to The Denver Post, the bomb in bomb cyclone stands for bombogenesis. Bombogenesis occurs when a non-tropical storm experiences at least a 24 millibar (the unit used to measure barometric pressure) drop within 24 hours. Low pressure makes for intense storms, so a bomb cyclone is a system that's built up a significant amount strength in a short length of time.

This type of storm usually depends on the ocean or another large body of water for its power. During the winter, the relatively warm air coming off the ocean and the cold air above land can collide to create a sharp drop in atmospheric pressure. Also known as a winter hurricane, this effect has produced some of the worst snowstorms to ever hit the U.S.

The fact that this latest bomb cyclone has formed nowhere near the coast makes it even more remarkable. Rather, a warm, subtropical air mass and a cold, Arctic air mass crossed paths, creating the perfect conditions for a rare bombogenesis over the Rockies and Great Plains states.

Central U.S. residents in the bomb cyclone's path have taken great precautions ahead of the storm. Over 1000 flights have been canceled for Wednesday and schools throughout Colorado have closed.

[h/t The Denver Post]

Watch a Rare ‘Ice Tsunami’ Slam Lake Erie

Clean Lakes Alliance, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Clean Lakes Alliance, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A combination of freezing cold temperatures and high winds is creating an unusual phenomenon along Lake Erie. As KDKA reports, ice tsunamis are toppling onto lake shores, and many locals have been asked to stay inside and even evacuate their homes.

On February 24, 2019, the National Weather Service in Buffalo, New York issued a warning about dangerous wind gusts in the Lake Erie area. The service urged citizens to seek shelter indoors and avoid traveling if possible. Winds peaked at 74 mph earlier this week, the level of a Category 1 hurricane, and tore down trees and power lines throughout the region.

People who got close to Lake Erie during the windstorm witnessed a rare event known as an ice tsunami. When wind pushed ice on the lake's surface toward the retaining wall, the sheet broke apart and dumped massive ice chunks on the shore. The video below captures the phenomenon.

In some areas, the ice piles grew so large that roadways had to be closed. Residents of Hamburg, New York's Hoover Beach area were asked to voluntarily evacuate due to the encroaching ice.

Ice tsunamis, or ice shoves, are rare, but in some cases they can be life-threatening. In 2013, waves of ice shards from a Minnesota lake destroyed people's homes.

[h/t KDKA]

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