You may have noticed a sudden increase in the amount of storms gathering around the Reno area. What causes these storms, and why do they always appear around the same time of year.
Summer storms are the result of heat and moisture. On a hot day, the sun heats the ground and surrounding air enough to cause that air to rise extremely quickly; and with it, all of the moisture that is contained in that air. Once the hot air rises high enough to reach the cooler regions of the atmosphere, it condenses to form clouds. Although this process occurs throughout the entire year, the mid-afternoon heat along with the high heat of the later summer months combine to cause this process to occur so quickly that the clouds don't have time to disperse. The result is storm clouds, or thunderheads.
Thunderheads, like the one pictured, can be spotted from a distance and usually indicate an incoming storm. They are identified by the large column of "cloud" rising vertically (as oppose to spreading out horizontally).
As the clouds sweep across land, pushed along by the wind and gathering moisture, they also gather "charge" which builds up and is eventually dissipated by a lightning strike. The same phenomenon can be observed when you touch a metal door knob after walking around on carpet.
Now that you know a bit more about storms, try predicting if this afternoon is going to yield some thunder! If it is a hot day, and you notice thunderheads already building up over the mountains by early afternoon, it's likely that a thunderstorm is approaching.
This blog is managed by the staff and volunteers of Galena Creek Visitor Center. We write about parts of the natural world that we find fascinating and want to teach others about, as well as keeping you updated on the Visitor Center and park. If you want to learn more, please sign up for our monthly newsletter, where we share upcoming events, updates on the ecology of the park, and highlights from each month.