Hailstone shapes

Laura Shedd, Matthew R. Kumjian, Ian Giammanco, Tanya Brown-Giammanco, B. Ross Maiden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Hailstone growth results in a variety of hailstone shapes. These shapes hold implications for modeling of hail processes, hailstone fall behaviors including fall speeds, and remote sensing signatures of hail. This study is an in-depth analysis of natural hailstone shapes, using a large dataset of hailstones collected in the field over a 6-yr period. These data come from manual measurements with digital calipers and three-dimensional infrared laser scans. Hailstones tend to have an ellipsoidal geometry with minor-to-major axis ratios ranging from 0.4 to 0.8, and intermediate-to-major axis ratios between 0.8 and 1.0. These suggest hailstones are better represented as triaxial ellipsoids as opposed to spheres or spheroids, which is commonly assumed. The laser scans allow for precise sphericity measurements, for the first time. Hailstones become increasingly nonspherical with increasing maximum dimension, with a typical range of sphericity values of 0.57 to 0.99. These sphericity values were used to estimate the drag coefficient, which was found to have a typical range of 0.5 to over 0.9. Hailstone maximum dimension tends to be 20%-50% larger than the equivalent-volume spherical diameter. As a step toward understanding and quantifying hailstone shapes, this study may aid in better parameterizations of hail in models and remote sensing hail detection and sizing algorithms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-652
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Hailstone shapes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this