What counting the rings in a hailstone tells you

Weather For Kids

Some hailstones have hidden features that can show you their history

In this episode of Weather For Kids, we take a look at another fun fact about hail.

Hailstones are formed when raindrops get pulled up into storms and freeze. The hailstones grow as they collide with other supercooled water droplets. They will continue to grow until they are too heavy for the updraft of the thunderstorm to support them, or the updraft in the thunderstorm weakens. Once this happens, the hailstone will fall toward the ground.

Sometimes they start to fall and then get pulled back up into the storm.

Below is a list of steps the stone may go through once it is formed.

  • The hailstone becomes too heavy
  • It falls toward the ground
  • It melts as it is falling into warmer air
  • The stone gets sucked back up into the storm
  • It will freeze again
  • The melting and the freezing will cause a ring around the stone (this may happen multiple times before the stone falls to the ground)
  • Eventually, it will be heavy enough to fall all the way to the ground

If you count the rings, you can tell how many times the hailstone cycled through the storm — it is like counting the rings on a cut tree. Each ring around the tree will tell you how old the tree is in years. So, each ring around the hailstone will tell you how many times the hailstone cycled through the storm.

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