When Do Thunderstorms Occur?


Quick Answer

Thunder is a by-product of the formation of lightning and thus shares the conditions needed for it to occur. There are several different ways in which lightning can be generated, but in all cases, it happens when warm, moist air rises very rapidly.

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Full Answer

There are three main ways in which thunderstorms can form. Frontal thunderstorms form when a mass of warm, humid air meets a mass of cold air and is forced upward over it. These are usually the least intense type of thunderstorms.

Air-mass thunderstorms form in hot and humid conditions, and while they can be triggered by moving air fronts of different temperatures, they are more often caused by the warming of air near the ground. Like frontal thunderstorms, these are usually short and not very intense.

Orographic thunderstorms occur when air is forced up the side of a mountain. These storms only occur on the windward side of mountain ranges.

The supercell thunderstorm is the most rare and severe type and occurs when the updraft of warm air persists for a very long time and begins to rotate. They occur most often in humid conditions where the wind is turning clockwise with height. These are the thunderstorms from which tornadoes are created.

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