Can you explain dry thunderstorms?

Weather Blog

Dear Tom,

Can you explain dry thunderstorms?

Thanks,
Jack Hardekopf   
Aurora

Dear Jack,

A dry thunderstorm is a conventional thunderstorm in all respects, except that it produces no rain at ground level. Rain falling from such a storm evaporates before it reaches the surface. This typically occurs when thunderstorm bases are very high (generally 8,000 feet or more above the ground) and when air beneath the storm is hot and dry. We’re fortunate that rain almost always accompanies Midwestern thunderstorms, but dry thunderstorms are a common summer phenomenon of the intermountain region of the western United States and High Plains in the lee of the Rockies. They are a major problem because lightning ground strikes from such storms start forest and brush fires that are not extinguished by rain.

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