A storm is a disturbance of normal conditions in the environment or the atmosphere of an astronomical body. The disturbance usually manifests with heavy precipitation, thunder and lightning, or strong winds transporting substances through the atmosphere.
A thunderstorm is a type of storm that exhibits lightning. This sudden electrostatic discharge is followed by the booming sound of thunder. Thunderstorms are usually accompanied by strong winds and heavy rain. In some cases, snow, sleet, and hail may occur. These thunderstorms result from the rapid rise of moist, warm air. During a dry thunderstorm, precipitation evaporates before reaching land due to low atmospheric water vapor.
Four Classifications of Thunderstorms
- Pulse Storm A pulse storm is a single-cell thunderstorm that tends to be weak in nature. When this storm does obtain substantial intensity, it is generally short in duration. This storm wanes and then generates another short burst or pulse, earning its name.
- Supercell Thunderstorm A supercell is a long-lived thunderstorm that is characterized by the presence of a mesocyclone: a deep rotating vortex of air. For this reason, these storms are often referred to as rotating thunderstorms. This particular type of thunderstorm has the greatest potential to create tornadoes that stay on the ground for long periods of time.
- Squall line A squall line is a line of thunderstorms that can form along or ahead of a cold front. This storm can cause heavy rains, hail, strong straight-line winds, lightning, and, in extreme cases, tornadoes and waterspouts.
- Multicellular Thunderstorm A multicellular thunderstorm is a type of thunderstorm that is made up of multiple storm cells. While the cells move as a single unit, each cell is in a different stage of the storm life cycle.
A tornado is a destructive mobile vortex of violently rotating winds that has the appearance of a funnel-shaped cloud located under a large storm system. The majority of tornadoes materialize from thunderstorms. A powerful tornado can be devastating, with wind speeds capable of reaching 300 miles per hour (480 kilometers per hour).
A waterspout is a fierce column-shaped vortex that occurs over a body of water. They are connected to a cumulonimbus cloud or a cumuliform cloud. Most waterspouts do not suck up water and they are usually just small weak columns of rotating air. While these water tornadoes are often weaker than their counterparts found on land, stronger versions developed from mesocyclones do occur.
A winter storm is a type of storm that releases various types of low-temperature precipitation such as snow, sleet, or freezing rain. These types of storms are not restricted to just winter; in temperate continental climates, they may occur in late autumn and early spring. In extremely rare cases, they may form in the summer.
- Snowstorm Snowstorms are storms marked by vast amounts of snowfall. Snow is less dense than liquid water, therefore an inch of rain could easily become at least ten inches of snow. A snowstorm with extremely strong winds is classified as a blizzard.
- Blizzards Blizzards are a dangerous concoction of strong winds that blow snowfall, resulting in poor visibility and healthy snowdrifts. A weather condition where strong winds lift and blow loose snow on the ground without actual snowfall is called a ground blizzard. In the United States, the National Weather Service states that a snowstorm becomes a blizzard when it exhibits sustained or frequent winds with speeds of 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour) or greater and exceeds approximately three hours of duration.
- Ice Storm An ice storm is a winter storm with freezing rain. Freezing rain occurs when raindrops pass through a below-freezing layer of air close to the Earth’s surface, freezing them on contact. The United States National Weather Service defines a storm with an accumulation a quarter inch of ice on exposed surfaces as an ice storm. Ice storms have the impressive and peculiar ability to entomb everything in a shell of ice.
A dust storm is a strong turbulent wind that carries fine particles of clay, dust, dirt, sand, silt or other materials for long distances. Dust storms are most common in arid and semi-arid regions. The tiny particles that the dust storm picks up swirl around the air can be raised over 10,000 feet (305 meters) and spread over hundreds of miles. Dust storms have wind speeds that reach at least 25 miles per hour (40 kilometers per hour).
Cyclone, Hurricane, Typhoon
Hurricanes, Cyclones, and Typhoons are all the same weather phenomenon; they just have different names based on where the storm originated from. Hurricanes are of Atlantic and Northeast Pacific origin, typhoons are of Northwest Pacific origin, and cyclones are of South Pacific and Indian Ocean origin. This type of storm is a massive rotating storm with wind speeds that reach at least 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers per hour). They rotate in a counter-clockwise motion around the “eye” of the storm. The center of the storm, or “eye,” is the calmest section of the storm.