Spring’s scattered thunderstorms return to the mountains

From the Institute for Climate Education at A-B Tech:

For many of us in the mountains, it seems that spring has sprung almost overnight as trees are flowering, birds are singing and allergies have hit full force (cough, cough). Another sure sign of spring: Scattered thunderstorms that pop up in the heat of the sun.

The storm pictured above popped up just after noon today, March 15, close to where Buncombe, Madison and Haywood Counties meet — west of Asheville. Not a large storm, but radar indicated that it did have a hail shaft within it at about 12:30 this afternoon. These thunderstorms are very typical of spring and summer in the Southeast. The sun warms the land and the warm air rises in a column creating a cumulus cloud. Such clouds are plentiful this time of year. The puffy white cottony clouds dot the sky on days when there is ample water vapor in the air. Under the right conditions, the moist air continues to rise, the clouds grow tall and a thunderstorm is born. In most cases, these storm types are not very large and they don’t live for long, especially this early in the year. However, they can produce some locally heavy rain, hail, and lightning — so they can be dangerous to those who find themselves underneath one. It’s all a sure sign of spring coming to the mountains.

The image below was taken by NASA’s Aqua satellite this afternoon at around 2:45 p.m. as it passed over Western North Carolina. You can see the small cottony cumulus clouds over our region, as well as the larger, taller and more feathered tops of the thunderstorms that had developed during the early afternoon. Click on the link above for the full image — beautiful!

Sat Image Credit: NASA & Space Science Engineering Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Want to know more?  The Institute is hosting a free severe weather workshop at A-B Tech’s Asheville campus on Saturday, June 2, with the National Weather Service office in Greenville/Spartanburg.  Mark your calendars!! More details to come.



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