How does hail form?

TULSA, Okla. — Hail is a common occurrence in any strong storm this time of year.

Every storm has an updraft, which is the air rising into the storm to allow the storm cloud to grow.

Since all storms are made of water droplets, those get thrust upward and above the freezing line as the storm grows into the colder part of the atmosphere.

Those droplets collect, freeze and grow into small chunks of ice, which then are tossed about the storm and continue to circulate so long as the updraft remains strong, forcing the hail upward against the force of gravity.

The stronger the updraft, the longer the hail can stay aloft, allowing it to grow larger. This is why the largest hail tends to fall next to the strongest points of updraft in a storm.

Once the updraft gets cut off or the hail just gets too heavy, it falls to the surface. The higher the freezing line is in the cloud, the more it can melt on its way to the ground, affecting the size we observe.

Hail can happen with any storm that is strong enough, even in the heat of summer because the atmosphere still is below freezing at a certain point aloft. Those hailstones just have longer to melt before they hit the ground.

We tend to have our largest hail in April and May when storms can reach a potent strength, but the freezing line remains low enough for less melting of the hail.