With the onset of April, what are colloquially known as “April showers” will no doubt make an appearance over the coming month.
Driven by the increasingly strong sun, these showers can at times be heavy, thundery and contain hail.
In fact, just the other week, Aylesbury was hit by a sudden downpour of hail which I was unfortunate enough to be caught in.
But what exactly is hail and how does it form?
You may have noticed that hail generally occurs during the warmer months, which may seem rather counter-intuitive at first.
Showers and thunderstorms are always formed through a process known as convection.
This is where the ground is heated by the sun, which in turn warms the air above the ground, causing it to rise.
This rising air condenses into clouds, which can develop into showers and thunderstorms.
The water droplets in these clouds can freeze if the air is cold enough, and the rising air – known as the cloud’s updraft – can be strong enough to keep these frozen droplets suspended within the cloud.
This is the basis of hail formation.
As long as the hail stone remains in the cloud, more and more liquid water droplets can freeze on contact with the hailstone’s surface, causing it to grow larger and larger.
Eventually, the hailstones become too heavy for the updraft to support them, and they fall to Earth.
Generally, hailstones in this country are small, typically no larger than pea-sized.
However, this isn’t always the case.
In June 2012, a strong “supercell” thunderstorm crossed the Midlands, and dropped hail the size of golf balls on the town of Hinckley.
Many cars were badly damaged.
This pales into insignificance when compared with the hailstones that can fall elsewhere in the world, such as the US.
Hail in the States quite often exceed the size of tennis balls, with the largest ever being an astonishing 20cm in diameter.
So what are the upcoming weather prospects for our area?
Well it’s looking rather unsettled for the rest of the working week, with further outbreaks of rain possible.
The Easter weekend has slightly better prospects, with any rain typically in the form of April showers, and some decent dry, sunny spells in between.