WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Sleet No...Hail Yes!!

Posted December 2, 2005

Thursday was one of those days where as being a meteorologist you just wanted to bury your head in the sand!

First off, there was far more cloud cover than I thought there would be. So much for partly cloudy skies yesterday afternoon.

Secondly, we had showers and storms develop along the cold front as it passed through the region last evening from 8pm-11pm. There was enough instability in the atmosphere and sufficient moisture to help showers grow. This of course, too, was unexpected.

What was even more surprising was the small hail that was seen falling from these showers.

After going back and looking at the data, the freezing level last evening was around four to five thousand feet. With the instability in the atmosphere, the attending updrafts lifted the raindrops above the freezing level, hence freezing them. After a while the updrafts couldn't support the weight of the hail, so it came falling to the ground. Since the freezing level was so close to the ground, the hail stones did not have the time to melt.

Most of the reports we got by email described it as pea size and many folks confused this as sleet. Sleet occurs in more of a stable layer in the atmosphere than what we had last night.

We see another weather system evolving late next week that could be quite interesting...keep watching the skies!!

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