When moist warm air rises rapidly, a thunderstorm can form. Thunderstorms bring high winds, heavy rain, lightning, and sometimes hail. Thunderstorms appear all around our planet every day. They can form at anytime, but most often form in the afternoon and evening during the warm seasons.
Thunderstorms can be very dangerous. Lightning from thunderstorms kills more people every year than tornadoes.
Lighting is a powerful blast of electricity that can form in thunderstorms and strike the earth with a powerful force. In order for lightning to occur, first high winds within a thunderstorm cause ice and water particles to bump up against each other at high speeds. This causes a charge to build up. The top of the thunderstorm is positively charged, but the bottom of the thunderstorm builds up a negative charge. Once the negative charge builds up to a certain point it will all discharge at once in the form of a lighting bolt. Since objects on the ground are also positively charged the lighting can often strike an object on the ground.
Lighting will often hit the highest point on land. It's also attracted to metal. During a lightning storm be sure to get inside. Don't stand under a tree or hold something metal like a metal umbrella or golf club. Also, be sure to get out of the water. Do not swim in a pool during a thunderstorm.
Hurricanes are huge powerful storms that form out over the ocean. They can be up to 600 miles wide! Hurricanes bring high winds, heavy rain, floods, and a storm surge from the ocean that can cause terrible devastation.
Hurricanes form in the summer and fall, when the water in the ocean is warm. Hurricanes get their energy from the warm ocean water, which must be over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Hurricanes get their high winds from spinning around the center of the hurricane called the eye. They spin due to the Coriolis force of the planet's spin. The wind is usually calm at the very center, but just outside the center steady winds of 80 to 150 miles per hour can be found.
Hurricanes are found in certain areas of the world. They form in the Atlantic Ocean near the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Africa, and in the Gulf of Mexico. They also form in the Indian Ocean where they are called Cyclones. In the Pacific Ocean hurricanes are called Typhoons and can threaten much of Southeast Asia.
Tornadoes are violent columns of wind that spin very fast. They extend from the bottom of thunderstorms to the ground and can have winds of up to 300 miles per hour. Tornadoes are smaller than hurricanes and form over land rather than sea. They get their energy from large thunderstorms. Tornadoes that form over water are called waterspouts. Before a tornado touches the ground it's called a funnel cloud.
What to do?
For more on what to do in dangerous weather see the National Weather Service Safety website.
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