On November 21, a powerful hail storm swept through the northern parts of Saudi Arabia, burying cities built in the desert in a thick layer of ice.
According to meteorologists, the air temperature dropped to +7°C within minutes.
In the vicinity of the city of Qurayat, located in the province of Al-Jawf, 30 km from the border with Jordan, the desert turned into gushing streams.
According to the Saudi National Meteorological Center, thunderstorms, accompanied by strong winds and hail, will hit Al Jawf and Tabuk, before engulfing to the coastal parts of the Medina region within the next few days.
The average amount of rain that falls in a year in Saudi Arabia is 109 mm. The peak of the hail season in the country is in springtime, but can also occasionally happen in autumn, as the air in the upper atmosphere cools, but heat and humidity are still present closer to the surface.
How hail can fall in the desert?
Parts of Saudi Arabia appeared to be blanketed in snow today after a hailstorm passed through some of the country.
But how do frozen ice chunks form in a place much better known for sandstorms than hailstorms?
Rare episode of snowfall/hail in Saudi-Arabia https://t.co/iMIU2WaSTL— Torsten Hanssen (@VaerTorsten) November 20, 2021
Hail tends to form best when the air is warm, moist, and stormy. The process is specifically tied to very strong updrafts that carry wet air high into the atmosphere. And, of course, the higher the moist air goes, the colder it gets. The air temperature outside an airplane flying at 30,000 feet is typically around negative-50 degrees Fahrenheit, and even over the desert it’s cold enough to freeze moisture in the air in a heartbeat.
Even a moderate thunderstorm can reach heights of 40,000 feet. Of course, ice is heavy — once it forms inside the storm it will want to fall to the earth. But if the updraft is strong enough, it will convect back up again. With each convection, another layer of ice forms around the hail stone. This process repeats until the weight of the stone is too much for the updraft to hold and it falls to the ground. The size of the hailstones is, therefore, mostly dependent not on temperature but on the strength of the thunderstorm.
Anywhere in the world that has thunderstorms can have hailstorms, and they occur most frequently in areas that are warm and wet. In the United States, the region where Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming meet is known as “Hail Alley,” and it sees about eight hail events per year on average. Parts of India, southern China, Australia, and Kenya are also particularly prone to hailstorms.
Hailstorms are caused by the meteorological processes high up in the air and have little to do with the climate on the ground… And just keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is against regulating geoengineering and studying the risks of climate-manipulating technology such as sucking carbon out of the air, reflective mirrors in space, seeding the oceans and injecting particulates into the atmosphere. [NationalNews, Inverse, Guardian]