Thunderstorm life cycle

Development Or Cumulus Stage

Several small cumulus clouds that have developed begin to merge and form one large cumulus cells. This merging of the cumulus cells is due to the fact that the surrounding air is sucked (called entraining) into the cloud at all the levels. Some neighbouring cumulus cells will have stronger convective currents than others, resulting in the weaker cells entraining into the dominating cells until the cumulonimbus cloud is formed, the base of which may have a diameter of up to 8 km across.

The Mature Stage

The onset of the rain marks the beginning of the mature stage and is the most intense period of the thunderstorm. Lightning and thunder are most frequent during this period, with severe turbulence and hail, should it be present, is found in this stage. Large amounts of ice crystals and water accumulate near the top of the cloud and eventually become too large and heavy to be supported by the updraught and begin to fall as precipitation.

The Dissipating or Anvil stage

Gradually the downdraughts gain over the updraughts and eventually spreads across the cloud, giving gentle down draughts near the lower levels of the cloud with light rain.

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