How to find Big Hail.
Hailstones of record sizes are falling all around, and the damage from the hailstorm is getting worse. But surprisingly little research has been done to figure out why.
In August, Leslie Scott, a cattle rancher from Vivian, S.D., went to the post office a few days before his 68th birthday. There, he got some bad news. The clerk told him that his world record had been broken. That is, the eight-inch-wide, nearly two-pound hailstone that Mr. Scott found in 2010 was no longer the biggest one ever found. The clerk said that some people in Canada had found a bigger one.
A few days after he heard the news, Mr. Scott said, “I was sad all weekend.” “I told everyone that my record was broken,”
This wasn’t quite right, which was good for Mr. Scott. On August 1, a group of scientists from Western University in London, Ontario, were following a storm in Alberta, about 75 miles north of Calgary. While they were there, they found a huge hailstone. The hailstone was five inches across and weighed just over half a pound. It was half as big and one-quarter as heavy as the one Mr. Scott had. So it was a Canadian record, not a world record.
The Canadian hailstone broke a record that had already been set in Alabama in 2018 (5.38 inches long and 0.612 pounds), Colorado in 2019 (4.83 inches long and 0.53 pounds), and Africa in 2020. (around seven inches long, weight unknown). Australia broke a national record in 2020, and then broke it again in 2021. In 2021, Texas set a new record. In 2018, a storm in Argentina made stones so big that they were given a new name: gargantuan hail. More than the size of a honeydew melon.
But the record-setting has led to more damage from hail. Even though the number of “hail events” reported in the U.S. is at its lowest level in a decade, a recent report from Verisk, a risk assessment company, says that insurance claims for hail damage to cars, houses, and crops will reach $16.5 billion in 2021, which is the most ever. Hail can kill small cars and strip plants down to the stem. Some tin roofs in Vivian still have dents from a storm that broke records 10 years ago. On Wednesday, a hailstorm in Catalonia, Spain, killed a young child.
Meteorologist Ian Giammanco from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety said, “It’s one of the few weather risks that we don’t always build for.” “And it’s getting bigger and worse.”
Weather experts say that the changing climate probably has something to do with these trends, but that a more complete explanation might have something to do with how human behavior and scientific discoveries feed each other. As more and more people move into areas with heavy hail and more hail damage, researchers have been looking for big hailstones and measuring them. This has sparked public interest and led to calls for more research.