What Is a Thunderstorm?

A thunderstorm is a storm with heavy rainfall accompanied by wind, thunder and lightning. These storms occur when air that is moist and close to the ground heats up and rises to form cumulonimbus clouds that produce precipitation. Electrical charges develop near the bottom of the clouds, resulting in lightning discharges.

Thunderstorms are often caused by extreme temperature changes that can be triggered by forest fires or volcanic eruptions. They occur more frequently in equatorial regions compared to polar regions.

Every thunderstorm is considered to be dangerous as a storm produces lightning. During 2010, 182 injuries and 29 fatalities were recorded in the United States due to lightning. Most victims of lightning survive, however, they often report various debilitating symptoms.

Other dangers associated with thunderstorms include flash flooding, hail, strong winds, and tornadoes. Flash flooding is a thunderstorm associated hazard that accounts for more fatalities annually than any other type of storm in the United States.

Dry thunderstorms are related to storms with falling raindrops that evaporate before they can reach the ground. These storms are a fire hazard as they are responsible for causing wildfires when lightning strikes the dry ground.

Once a thunderstorm has passed, individuals should steer clear of areas that have become storm-damaged, and check local television or radio stations for instructions and updated information regarding road closures or hazardous areas.