Copyright

Air Mass Thunderstorms: Characteristics & Stages

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Multicell & Supercell Thunderstorms: Characteristics & Types

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What Is an Air Mass…
  • 1:38 The Life Cycle
  • 2:51 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Linda Fye
Learn how an air mass thunderstorm is different from other types of storms. Understand the different stages in their development and the process of formation.

What Is an Air Mass Thunderstorm?

Have you ever experienced a perfect summer day, when suddenly in the late afternoon, the sky gets dark out of nowhere? Before you know it, a cloud forms and a storm develops. It starts pouring rain and flashing lightning, but only a few minutes later the rain turns to drizzle. Soon after that, the sky is completely clear again. This is a common occurrence, and it's a special type of storm. It's called an air mass thunderstorm, and it is a non-severe storm that forms where moist and unstable conditions exist in the atmosphere.

Air mass thunderstorms are considered garden variety, or ordinary, and there are many things about them that are different from other storms. They are associated with warm, moist, unstable air masses, hence the name. They are also considered to be single-cell storms. That just means that they are isolated, or they are just one storm rather than a whole line of thunderstorms.

The air mass thunderstorm is usually caused by solar radiation or the heating of the earth by the sun. This is why they are likely to happen in the late afternoon when we have the hottest temperatures of the day. The result is a storm that is weak rather than severe. It usually has a brief period of heavy rain, some lightning, and possibly small hail. They also move slowly and last only an hour or less. Because they tend to pop up suddenly, they are also hard to forecast. They are most common in the tropics and middle latitudes in the summer. For example, they are extremely common in Florida and other Gulf Coast states.

The Life Cycle of Air Mass Thunderstorm Development

So, how does an air mass thunderstorm develop? There are three stages to the life cycle of an air mass thunderstorm. But first, there are a few conditions that must be in place for the process to begin. There needs to be vertical air motion, humidity, and instability. In the case of an air mass thunderstorm, it usually starts due to the heating of the ground by the sun.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support