Saturday, August 7, 2010

Examining Hailstones

I was sitting, sipping a cup of tea last night, enjoying the cool fresh breeze, after a thunderstorm, and the last glow of the sunset.

When suddenly, there was a strange pinging, panging sound coming through the open windows. I glanced out, and realized it was hail!

Hail is not altogether unusual for us here, but we generally get tiny pellets, and these were larger. Plus they were flying in, fast and furious, on a diagonal path, that made me think of a meteorite shower in on of those end of the world movies. You know the movies, where the little rocks start flying in, and everyone pauses, and then turns around to see some disaster coming? I turned around to see this...

Can you say cumulonimbus?

The cloud was actually a lot bigger, and more impressive, than it looks, but to get a good picture I would have had to have run across the street, with a metal camera in hand, and that didn't seem too smart. Besides, I was busy scooping up hailstones (once they'd stopped falling, of course), and pulling children out of bed to examine them, and worrying, slightly, about the Man of the House, who had gone out for an evening walk.

Back when we were studying weather, we read Down Comes the Rain by Franklyn M. Branley, and I think this is the book, that suggested cutting a hailstone in half, to see the ridges formed by the rain drop freezing, and refreezing, as it is swirled in the cloud, until it becomes heavy enough to break through the upward stream of hot air, and fall.

My oldest, at the time we read the book, announced he didn't think you'd be able to see ridges, it would just all be white, and too solid to cut in half.

We discovered last night, that cutting hail, is a lot like cutting through a snowball, it's not difficult at all.

And, that hail tastes like snow. I flinched at this at first, but then thought...well, they eat snow, why not hail?

And, it melts very quickly in your hand. does have ridges inside, that show signs of several goes, through the cloud. But, I didn't get any pictures of that - my camera skills are not good enough to get a clear picture of 1/4 inch white ball, cut in half, and melting fast, in a darkening kitchen, but it was pretty neat.

The real storm is coming today, though, I'm afraid. In my hurry to yank the little ones out of bed, before the hailstones melted, I left my youngest son sleeping, peacefully, unnoticed in his room. I have a feeling there's going to be some thunder-like rumbling heard from our house, once he hears the report from his siblings, this morning.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Phyllis said...

Wow, that is so interesting! We rarely get hail here in Maryland, but when we do, it is unmistakably ice. It is like little round balls of ice cubes. Not at all like what you describe. I knew, of course, that different areas of the US have different climates, but for hail to be different in different areas is new concept to me!

Ticia said...

When we last had hail my kids weren't that super interested in it. We'll have to try again next time. Then we had a fine layer of hail all across my yard, and all the spring vegetables I had just planted were pretty much ruined.

Christy Killoran said...

That is so cool. Now I am hoping for hail. I can't remember the last time we had hail though.

How was your husband when he returned from his walk?

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Christy - He was fine, though a little excited. Luckily, he'd been near an overhang when it started, and it didn't last long - but he had one ricochet off of a car, right passed his head, that freaked him out a little.

Unknown said...

I was telling my children about hail the other day because they were freezing water in balloons and making large iceballs, then throwing them from the 3rd story of our house. I haven't seen hail since I was a little girl, in Africa... they can get very big and dangerous.

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

I am impressed that you woke up the kids to explore hail. You are a true scientist at heart, thrilled by a good find :) I would be shocked to see hail here, but I think it actually happened once or twice.