It’s that time of year again where the summery feel returns to the air and mother nature helps water the lawns from time to time with pop up showers and thunderstorms. When conditions are right with a warmer and more humid air mass over Central New York (absent a front or low pressure) the odds of pop-up showers/storms go up, especially during the afternoon and evening. However, typically when we talk about pop-up showers and storms, we often emphasize that not everyone is going to see a shower/storm.

So why is it so difficult to say exactly where pop-up showers/storms will develop? It’s because of the uneven heating of the ground by the sun. Where the ground is heated up more so is where the air becomes lightest and rises towards the sky fastest. The air rising towards the sky is called an updraft/thermal and the stronger the updraft the better odds of a cumulus/cumulonimbus cloud developing leading to that pop-up shower/storm.

It’s the uneven heating that leads to some areas staying dry and others getting wet.

Another way to explain the process is through popping popcorn on a skillet that is heated by a stove top which is not evenly heating the bottom of the pan. So where the pan is hottest is where the kernels turn into popcorn, while the others don’t. Yes, very random, but that’s how the atmosphere works too.

I hope this popping of popcorn analogy makes the randomness of pop-up showers/storms more understandable. And then after the experiment is done you can enjoy the end result of the experiment. 🙂