Cloudy, with a chance of hail

Residents from Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal may be surprised when they see hail falling from the sky, but this isn’t the case in Alberta. With hail storms happening on average every other day during the summer, they’re a frequent occurrence, causing quite a bit of damage.

 We talked with Chris Scott, Chief Meteorologist, The Weather Network, to learn more about hail in Alberta.

Repeated storms in Alberta have to do with its landscape. Being on the edge of the Rocky Mountains is part of the problem. Mountains and elevation are the perfect combination to create hail.  This mix creates air full of moisture at a lower level and very cold and dry currents above coming from the peaks.

“In Alberta during the summer, most days have a chance of hail. Quebec and Ontario get big thunderstorms, but not a lot of hail because of their lower elevation levels. They don’t have the explosive setup Alberta has,” indicates Christopher Scott.

For hail to form, the cloud needs to rise very rapidly towards the cold air above. Christopher says, “In Alberta the temperature of the updraft often varies from 0 to -20 degrees which is the perfect range over which supercooled water droplets and ice crystals mix, causing a hail embryo to be born”.

The hail then takes form while successively going up and down, progressively getting bigger when layers pile-up. When too heavy, the hail simply falls down to the ground.

Impact of hailstorms

Most storms are comprised of small hail stones, but each year we witness a few storms that contain large destructive hail.  Large hail that can damage cars and buildings can range from the size of a golf ball to a baseball.

A couple of years ago, an August storm in Airdrie caused $500 million in damages. At belairdirect, hail coverage is included in every home insurance policy in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec or the Maritimes. Please contact us for more  information concerning the specifics of your region.

How do we forecast for hail?

With no ability to prevent hail from happening, alerting citizens that a storm is coming, so they can take shelter, is critical. You may be wondering how experts can detect storms in time to warn people.

Christopher explains, “We look at computer models and the temperatures on the ground and in the clouds. This data gives us a good idea of whether or not it could be hail. We can’t say a day in advance where a storm may hit, which is why a radar is important to have at all times. The radar scans the sky, so we can determine if a storm is forming and how big and intense it could be.”

Whether you’re watching an alert on the weather channel, scoping out newspaper sites online or using an app, it’s always better to have information overload than nothing at all when it comes to protecting yourself and your belongings against hailstorms!

Want to learn more about hail across Canada? View our infographic!