Question: How do thunderstorms form?

Answer: Thunderstorms at the most basic levels need three ingredients to form. The ingredients are moisture, life, and instability.

A lot of times the moisture comes from bodies of water like oceans. The Gulf of Mexico typically supplies a lot of warm moist air. For the second ingredient, lift means a lifting mechanism; since air doesn’t typically rise on its own it needs something to provide that lift. Some common examples of lift are fronts, terrain, or a lake breeze.

For the instability, unstable air means warm moist air at the surface and cool air aloft. This means, that if the air is forced up it continues to rise on its own, and as it continues to rise it cools and condenses and creates the cumulonimbus cloud (aka the thunderstorm).

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