NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As areas of Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky face the potential of strong storms Thursday, News 2’s meteorologist Shelby Mac has an overview of some important weather terms. It’s part of our special reports on Storm Safety during the National Weather Services’ Severe Weather Awareness Week.

What is a cap?

There are many factors that come into play with storms forming. One thing to consider is the cap. It is a warm layer of air that stops or slows down the updraft of a storm from continuing upward. This helps keep things calm while storms are trying to develop. However, if the updraft is warmer than the cap or there is an area where the cap is thin or weak the system can continue moving through. Once the cap is broken, we will have the potential for strong storms. We can compare this to a shaken soda. If you shake a soda with the lid on, the liquid bubbles but is contained. If you take the lid off a shaken soda there will be a mess, which we can compare to a thunderstorm.

How does hail form?

Hail is a form of precipitation consisting of solid ice. It forms when raindrops are swept into cold parts of the upper atmosphere by the updraft and freezes. If it freezes quickly the ice will be cloudy but if it takes time to freeze it will be clear as air bubbles have time to escape. Large hail comes from higher up as layers of ice continue to develop around the raindrop as it gets higher in the storm. Hail comes to the surface when the weight of the hail becomes too much for the updraft to hold up.

How does lighting form?

Lightning forms as electrons in the atmosphere zigzag downward toward the protons, or positive energy, at the surface. As electrons try ‘reaching’ for the ground they create a stepped leader. This is going to be the connector for energy being exchanged. The leader starts pulling positive energy upward as it gets closer to the surface.

Once they connect there is a powerful current of electricity, and we see the return stroke. Remember ‘when thunder roars, go indoors,’ because lightning is just as dangerous and deadly as tornadoes.

Lighting Safety

If you are stuck outside make sure to avoid open areas; do not stand near isolated trees; and watch for signs of developing storms. Lightning danger is at an all-time high during the summer due to outdoor activities. Make sure to check your WKRN weather app before planning outdoor activities so you can avoid potential storms.

Don’t forget to take the power and reliability of the WKRN Weather Authority with you at all times by downloading the News 2 Storm Tracker app.