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On a hot summer day the surface of the Earth is heated by the sun. The Earth's surface heats the air just above the surface through the process of conduction.The action of warm air rising and cold air sinking (convection) plays a key role in the formation of severe thunderstorms. If the warm surface air is forced to rise, it will continue to rise, because it is less dense than the surrounding air. In addition, it will transfer heat from the land surface to upper levels of the atmosphere through the process of convection.Two of the most important ingredients for thunderstorm formation are instability (unstable air) and moisture making a thunderstorm.

human impact Many hazardous weather events are associated with thunderstorms. Under the right conditions, rainfall from thunderstorms causes flash flooding, killing more people each year than hurricanes, tornadoes or lightning. Lightning is responsible for many fires around the world each year, and causes fatalities. Hail up to the size of softballs damages cars and windows, and kills livestock caught out in the open. Strong (up to more than 120 mph) straight-line winds associated with thunderstorms knock down trees, power lines and mobile homes. Tornadoes (with winds up to about 300 mph) can destroy all but the best-built man-made structures

historical examples Compare/contrast the events (be sure this connects to impact on human life)Since 1900, hurricanes striking the United States bordering the Gulf of Mexico have killed more than 9,000 people and caused tremendous damage. When adjusted to 1990 dollars, the cost of damages inflicted by those storms is more than $30 billion. These Gulf coast storms are those that strike from Florida's west coast to Brownsville, TX. The word "memorable" is indicative of some of the most deadly and costly storms. The storms described below are subjective and not intended to be all inclusive.Hurricanes are designated in 5 categories according to the Saffir/Simpson Scale: Category 1: 74-95 mph winds, Category 2: 96-110 mph winds, Category 3: 111-130 mph winds, Category 4: 131-155 mph winds, and Category 5: winds greater than 155 mph.This summary was written by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and was last revised in 1993.

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