KSN Storm Track 3 Digital Extra: The difference between clear and cloudy hail

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Hail can be different shapes and sizes, but what about different colors? Technically, hail can look different when it comes to color.

Hail starts out within thunderstorms as liquid precipitation that collides with each other. As the pieces get caught in the updraft, they freeze. This process forms hail. Once the ice falls within the storm, it gets coated with more liquid. Then, the updraft takes the ice back up into the thunderstorm. This continues several times, creating new layers until the hail is so heavy it has to fall to the surface.

Take a look at these viewer photos of large hail from late May. Notice how some of the hailstones have a clear look to them and others are opaque or a solid white.

Here is why this happens. It all depends on what the hailstone is colliding with while it is in the thunderstorm. Hail that is clear has come in contact with supercooled water droplets (or liquid precipitation). Those droplets freeze on the surface of the hailstone. This is known as wet growth.

Hailstones that are white and cloudy have collided with ice particles or snowflakes in colder parts of the thunderstorm. However, if you were to cut one of these open there would likely be some clear layers from the constant falling and rising through the storm.

The next time you see hail, you can analyze it and have a better idea of exactly how it formed once the storm has safely cleared your area. Look for the rings which signifies layers or trips within the thunderstorm!

-Meteorologist Ronelle Williams

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