Baseball-Sized Hail Is Set to Shower North America


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.

Denver is About to Experience Summer and Winter Temperatures Within 24 Hours

In a story tailor-made for exhaustive Weather Channel coverage, Denver, Colorado is about to experience one of the more bizarre weather shifts in recent memory. After an expected Tuesday high of 80°F, residents can anticipate a dramatic shift down to 32°F by midday Wednesday, with an initial half-inch of snow accumulation increasing to up to 7 inches by Wednesday night.

Put another way: Citizens who need to make sure they hydrate in the warm temperatures Tuesday will have to bring out the parkas the following day.

The Denver Post reports that the warm air coming ahead of the cold can result in a clash of air masses, prompting areas of low pressure that can create forceful and damaging weather conditions. The storm could bring winds of up to 60 miles per hour and possibly even cause power outages. Snow accumulation should dissipate by the weekend, when temperatures are expected to climb back into the 60s.

The high temperature record for April 9 in Denver is 81°F, set in 1977.

[h/t The Denver Post]

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]