What are hailstones and how are they made?

What are hailstones and how are they made?

The simple science twins are back to answer more of your questions; this one is all about hailstones and it comes in from five year old Matthew who can sometimes be found over on Office Mum’s blog. Matthew would like to know…

What are hailstones and how are they made?

 

What are hailstones?

Hailstones are small lumps of ice that form in the clouds and fall to the ground when their size reaches 5 mm in diameter, or larger.

They begin as water droplets that freeze in the clouds.

How are they made?

Hailstones are made in certain kinds of clouds, called CULUMONIMBUS. These are thunder clouds and if the cloud is large enough and the winds are strong enough, hailstones can be formed.

Firstly, the cloud contains tiny droplets of water. Under the right conditions, these droplets are blow to the top of the cloud by strong winds, called UP-DRAFTS. The temperatures at the top of the cloud are a lot lower than at the bottom so the water droplets freeze rapidly. Then they can be caught by winds, called DOWN-DRAFTS that carry the frozen droplet back down to the lower part of the cloud. It gets lifted again, by another up-draft and combines with another droplet of water, which freezes, forming a larger lump of ice.

Every time it travels up to the top of the cloud it merges with more droplets and gets larger, freezing in layers, until eventually it is too big and heavy to stay in the cloud and it falls to the ground as hail.

Hailstones usually fall once they are larger than 5 mm in diameter.

The size of the hailstones depends on the up-drafts and down-drafts and the general weather conditions. When the up-drafts become stronger the thunder clouds grow taller, allowing the droplets to be carried higher into colder temperatures. This usually leads to larger hailstones.

The largest hailstone ever recorded was 20 cm in diameter and weighed 0.88 kg. It fell in Vivian, South Dakota, USA on July 23rd, 2010.

What is the difference between snow and hailstones?

Hailstones are made up of layers of frozen ice whereas snow is a symmetrical crystal of ice, usually a snowflake.

Hailstones are much heavier than snowflakes and fall at a greater speed.

Snow is usually formed during the colder months of the year, in Winter or Spring whereas hailstones can be made at any time of the year. That is why we sometimes get them in the Summer months.

 

Thanks so much to Matthew for sending in this great question. If you have a question that you’d like the simple science twins to answer, send it in to me at drhowsciencewows@gmail.com or leave it in the comments below.

 

How high do birds fly?

How high do birds fly?

This question comes in from twins Sabha and Lile, who can sometimes be found on the lovely Where Wishes Come From blog. They are two wonderful girls that are fairly mad into science, and their mum tells me that they are always full of questions (we love that around here!). This is the first of two questions they have sent in…

How high do birds fly?

Dr. Simple is, as ever, delighted to answer their question. And this week he has his twin sister with him (which is pretty appropriate don’t you think?).  You’ll see below that the regular Dr. Simple post has had a revamp, I love it like this, I hope you do too!

 

How-high-do-birds-fly2

Thanks again to Lile and Sabha for this great question, what super science twins you are!

I hope you like the new layout here, be sure to let me know in the comments below, and remember to send in any questions that you or your family have. We love getting them!

A Simple Slice of Science – Why do we burp?

A Simple Slice of Science – Why do we burp?

Dr. Simple is back answering some more great questions; this one came in from five-year-old Cathal, who can sometimes be found over at the lovely blog Bumbles of Rice.

Cathal wants to know…

Why do we burp?

And here is what Dr. Simple has to say on the matter…

Burp

 

 

Who knew the humble burp could be so interesting? Here are a few more burp facts that Dr. Simple didn’t mention…

  • Not all animals, can burp; chicken, rats and horse are among some that cannot.
  • The average person passes wind (through burps and farts) an average 20 times a day!
  • This can add up to three or more litres of gas a day!

********************

Thanks so much for your question, Cathal, and if anyone else has a question for Dr. Simple, just leave it in the comments below!

A Simple Slice of Science – Why do we get Jetlag?

A Simple Slice of Science – Why do we get Jetlag?

For this Simple Slice of Science Dr. Simple looks at Jetlag… what is it, why we suffer from it and can it be avoided? This question originally came in from Lisa at Mama.ie when she wrote this blog post (so it only took me five months to write this response… I can’t blame jetlag for that!).

 

Why do we get Jetlag?
Why do we get Jetlag?

References:

*http://www.airspacemag.com/need-to-know/when-did-the-term-jet-lag-come-into-use-71638/?no-ist

**http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/mammalian-molecular-clock-model

 

A Simple Slice of Science – Why do we have five fingers?

A Simple Slice of Science – Why do we have five fingers?

This week’s questions comes from the youngest junior scientist in the Science Wows household and he wants to know…

Why do we have five fingers?

 

As it is National Maths Week Dr. Simple is happy to be talking numbers.

FiveFingers

 

References:

1. Why do most species have five digits on their hands and feet?

2. What if our hands had six fingers?

3. Why do we have ten fingers?

 

 

 

A simple slice of science – why does your voice sound different on the radio?

A simple slice of science – why does your voice sound different on the radio?

Dr. Simple is back with another really cool question. This one comes in from Jill, who can often be found here, when she is not pondering such questions as….

why does your voice sound different on the radio?

 

So if, like me, you cringe when hearing your voice from any recording then sit back, tune in and check out what Dr. Simple has to say on the matter…

 

Radio-voice

 

 

A Simple Slice of Science – How can I make two of me?

A Simple Slice of Science – How can I make two of me?

This week’s question for Dr. Simple is a real gem and comes from six year old Abigail (you might find her mentioned here too)…

How can I make two of me?

I think if Abigail is asking these questions at the age of six then she will really go far, don’t you agree?

Here is what Dr. Simple has to say on the matter… and don’t adjust your screens if you think you are seeing double!

 

HowCanIMakeTwoOfMyself

 

Transmogrifier
Image source: http://calvinandhobbes.wikia.com/wiki/Transmogrifier

So there you have it! Hopefully a simple answer to a really wonderful question. It certainly opens up the discussion of whether we should be cloning or not. As a geneticist myself I wouldn’t be encouraging it, but I do have a much simpler answer… I reckon if Abigail could just build herself a Transmogrifier then she will really have nailed the whole cloning thing. She could turn herself into another Abigail and the job would be done!

If you do make one Abigail, can I borrow it?

A simple slice of science – Why do we yawn?

A simple slice of science – Why do we yawn?

This week’s question comes from seven year old Emily, who, I hear is always asking her mum questions… sometimes her mum even writes about it here.

Emily wants to know….

Why do we yawn?

 

Dr. Simple will try to stop yawning long enough to answer the question…. because yawning is contagious! See how many times you yawn while reading this and leave us a note in the comments below!

 

yawn

So, go on, tell us how many times did you yawn?

 

Further reading/references:

The surprising science of yawning

Different yawn, different functions?

In group/out group bias in contagious yawning

Individual Variation in Contagious Yawning Susceptibility Is Highly Stable and Largely Unexplained by Empathy or Other Known Factors.