• Hail is a type of precipitation, or water in the atmosphere. Hail is formed when drops of water freeze together in the cold upper regions of thunderstorm clouds. These chunks of ice are called hailstones. Most hailstones measure between 5 millimeters and 15 centimeters in diameter, and can be round or jagged.

    Hailstones are not frozen raindrops. Frozen rain falls as water and freezes as it nears the ground. Hail actually falls as a solid.

    Hailstones are formed by layers of water attaching and freezing in a large cloud. A frozen droplet begins to fall from a cloud during a storm, but is pushed back up into the cloud by a strong updraft of wind. When the hailstone is lifted, it hits liquid water droplets. Those droplets then freeze to the hailstone, adding another layer to it. The hailstone eventually falls to Earth when it becomes too heavy to remain in the cloud, or when the updraft stops or slows down.

    Certain parts of the world receive more hail than others. The approach of the summer monsoon season in India brings severe thunderstorms, often with tornadoes and hail. A particularly deadly hail storm in Moradabad, India, in 1888 killed more than 250 people. China also experiences frequent hail storms, as do parts of the Midwestern United States. In fact, the Great Plains region of the United States and Canada is called "Hail Alley."

    Hailstones can cause extreme damage to buildings, vehicles, and crops. Not surprisingly, people have tried to find ways to prevent hail. In the 18th century, Europeans began trying to prevent hail by firing cannons into clouds and ringing church bells.

    In the 20th century, Russia and the United States tried cloud seeding. Cloud seeding is adding chemical particles into clouds from rockets or aircraft. Cloud seeding is thought to control rain and hail.

    There is no clear evidence that any of these techniques are effective.

    Hail can be transparent (clear) or translucent (cloudy).

    According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, the largest hailstone recorded in the United States was found in Aurora, Nebraska, on June 22, 2004. It measured 17.8 centimeters (7 inches) in diameter and had a circumference of 47.6 centimeters (18.7 inches)about the size of a soccer ball.

    Hail and Farewell
    In 1360, a hailstorm outside Paris, France, killed hundreds of invading English soldiers. King Edward III soon gave up his conquest of France.

    Look Out Below
    In 1986, a hailstorm in Gopalganj, Bangladesh, killed 92 people. The hailstones were reported to weigh up to a kilogram (2 pounds).

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    aircraft Noun

    vehicle able to travel and operate above the ground.

    atmosphere Noun

    layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere
    cannon Noun

    very large gun used for firing heavy projectiles.

    cloud Noun

    visible mass of tiny water droplets or ice crystals in Earth's atmosphere.

    Encyclopedic Entry: cloud
    cloud seeding Noun

    process of adding chemical material to clouds in order to make it rain or otherwise control precipitation.

    conquest Noun


    crop Noun

    agricultural produce.

    Encyclopedic Entry: crop
    freeze Noun

    weather pattern of temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

    frozen rain Noun

    liquid precipitation that turns solid as it falls on a frozen surface.

    Great Plains Noun

    grassland region of North America, between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River.

    hail Noun

    precipitation that falls as ice.

    Encyclopedic Entry: hail
    Hail Alley Noun

    the Great Plains region of the United States and Canada, which receives high amounts of hail.

    hailstone Noun

    individual chunk of ice that falls as precipitation.

    invade Verb

    to enter and attack.

    jagged Adjective

    having an uneven edge.

    monsoon Noun

    seasonal change in the direction of the prevailing winds of a region. Monsoon usually refers to the winds of the Indian Ocean and South Asia, which often bring heavy rains.

    Encyclopedic Entry: monsoon
    precipitation Noun

    all forms in which water falls to Earth from the atmosphere.

    Encyclopedic Entry: precipitation
    prevent Verb

    to keep something from happening.

    rocket Noun

    device that moves through the atmosphere by release of expanding gas.

    soldier Noun

    person who serves in a military.

    solid Noun

    state of matter with a fixed shape and molecules that vibrate but do not move.

    thunderstorm Noun

    cloud that produces thunder and lightning, often accompanied by heavy rains.

    tornado Noun

    a violently rotating column of air that forms at the bottom of a cloud and touches the ground.

    vehicle Noun

    device used for transportation.