June was certainly THE month for meteorologists in the Southeast. Before the Summer Solstice we had record-setting warm temperatures whereas just a week before, we were seeing morning lows close to record lows!
When it gets as hot as it did, the environment has an enormous amount of heat energy. With a little daytime heating, we will frequently see an explosion of thunderstorms. I was remarking to my colleagues here in Severe Weather Center 2, how much our Storm Tracker 2 HD Radar resembled a popcorn popper. We are literally seeing storms “pop” every few minutes, turning from an initial green spec on the radar to a raging red color and embedded areas of purple. At one point in time there were more than 1,250 lightning strikes in a 10-minute time period showing up with our lightning tracking technology. What was even more astounding was the number of positive lightning strikes. Normally in a summer storm you might see two or three but we were seeing numbers in the hundreds!
A positive lightning strike is bolt of lightning that leaps out of the top of a thunderstorm. It will be on the order of a BILLION volts carrying 300,000 amps of electricity, compared to a million volts for a negative strike coming from the bottom of a storm cloud. What makes this doubly dangerous, especially if you are out enjoying the lake, is these positive strikes can and do, travel 10 miles from the parent storm. That means you could have a blue sky over you but are in a high lightning risk for a storm you might not even be aware of.
I have a friend who works at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. He tracked 70 lightning strikes per hour in just one small storm. The lightning is usually very fierce when you have a large core of hail in a thunderstorm. Recent studies also indicate that ice, hail, and semi-frozen water drops known as graupel are essential to lightning development. Storms that fail to produce large quantities of ice usually fail to produce lightning. With the kind of heat we have been dealing with, storms will rise beyond 45,000 feet. Typically, 20,000 feet and beyond is where hail forms. We had a great deal of hail in these storms because they rose so high in the atmosphere.
The question I am now being asked is, if it was that hot in June, what is July going to be like. Here you go! July temperatures will be hotter than average.
Rainfall will be about average, which is 4.75 inches. Hope you have a great month and be sure to take along an app that can alert you on approaching summer storms.