If climate change continues to go unchecked, enormous hail—much like the kind that battered the Denver area last month—could very well become the new normal in some regions of North America.
That's according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change, which tracked the impact of climate on the frequency and scale of hailstorms in the coming years. It found that, while climate change is likely to significantly reduce the number of hailstorms, the size of the hail formed in these episodes will increase, accumulating larger than 1.6 inches.
The regions most affected, the study predicts, will be the states in the central and northern plains. Conversely, the southern and southeastern portions of the U.S. will see a decreased threat.
Hail begins its life as a droplet of supercooled water. Then, rather than condensing into rain and falling, it freezes onto a condensation nucleus (dust, dirt) and bounces around like popcorn. This movement causes the hailstone to gather more layers of liquid.
Larger hailstones could have very drastic consequences for the environment, as well as property owners that dwell within the storm's reach. Last month, The Denver Post reported that its massive hail storm toppled power lines and led to multiple car crashes during rush hour. The damages brought to the state of Colorado were estimated to reach upwards of $1.4 billion.