A thunderstorm, also known as an electrical storm, a lightning storm, or a thundershower, is a type of storm characterized by the presence of lightning and its acoustic effect on the Earth’s atmosphere known as thunder. The meteorologically assigned cloud type associated with the thunderstorm is the cumulonimbus. Thunderstorms are usually accompanied by strong winds, heavy rain and sometimes hail, or no precipitation at all.
Thunderstorms result from the rapid upward movement of warm, moist air. They can occur inside warm, moist air masses and at fronts. As the warm, moist air moves upward, it cools, condenses, and forms cumulonimbus clouds that can reach heights of over 20 km. As the rising air reaches its dew point, water droplets and ice form and begin falling the long distance through the clouds towards the Earth’s surface. As the droplets fall, they collide with other droplets and become larger. The falling droplets create a downdraft of cold air and moisture that spreads out at the Earth’s surface, causing the strong winds commonly associated with thunderstorms, and occasionally fog.
This image was captured on a stormy afternoon on the Chobe River, near Kasane, northern Botswana, Southern Africa.