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8.30 Thunderstorms

8.30.2 State the three conditions required for the development of thunderstorms.

Thunderstorms are defined as one or more electrical discharges indicated by lighting or thunder. This is due to a build up of static electricity caused mainly by friction.


  • An atmosphere that is unstable through a deep layer
  • An adequate supply of moisture from below
  • A Trigger action which causes the initial upsurge of the unstable air


8.30.4 Describe the three stages in the life-cycle of a thunderstorm.

Three stages of thunderstorms

Growing stage

  • 15-30 minutes
  • 10,000 – 15,000 ft
  • Rate of growth up to 2000 ft / min!!
  • Latent heat released by condensation – increasing instability.
  • Precipitation suspended in updraughts.


Mature Stage

  • 15-20 minutes
  • 25,000 – 40,000 ft
  • Rain on the leading edge.
  • Downdrafts at leading edge (first gust)
  • Maximum development at the anvil.


Decaying Stage

  • Downdraughts and rain beneath entire thunderstorm.
  • Rain less intense.
  • Anvil becomes widespread.
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