Freak hail storm pummels streets at the equator
Hail itself is not that unusual a weather phenomenon. We often see hail in North America, even on warm summer days. Super cooled air from high up in the atmosphere allows a small ice pellet to form in the clouds during a thunderstorm. A strong upward air current keeps the pellet aloft longer and other water drops or ice pellets adhere to the pellet and freeze. Hail grows bigger the longer it is suspended buy the updraft. Hail can measure 5mm (0.2 inches) in diameter right up to 15cm (6 inches). At those sizes, hail can be extremely damaging and dangerous. Usually a short lived phenomenon, hail only falls for a few minutes and it is quick to melt once it reaches the ground.
And although none of this is unexpected, what is unexpected is to see hail falling in tropical climates. You can imagine the surprise of these Canadian tourists as they took a taxi ride through Quito, Ecuador, a city that is extremely close to the equator. The locals don’t see this sort of weather very often. The taxi driver in this case said that he had only ever seen hail falling once before. The effect was surprising and mesmerizing at the same time. Descending from a high altitude at the city center, as the tourists made their way to the Quito airport, they were fascinated with the instant accumulation of rushing water in the street, mixed in with pelting stones that were the size of small marbles. It is actually the higher altitude of the city of Quito that makes this phenomenon even possible. Situated at almost 3,000 feet above sea level, the city sits high in the foothills of the Andes mountains.
Hail falling at the equator is so rare that some of the residents that were talking about this storm said that they had never seen hail in their lives. This storm caused a lot of debate about global warming and about climate change. Although it is likely just a combination of several factors coming together to create a normal, although rare, weather event, all of the changes that we have seen in the past few decades would certainly make a person wonder if this is a sign of our impact on the environment.
This storm was so surprising for the residents that many could be seen recording the event with their phone cameras during the brief downfall.