A dry thunderstorm is a thunderstorm that produces thunder and lightning, but most or all of its precipitation evaporates before reaching the ground.
Where dry thunderstorms occur
Dry thunderstorms generally occur in deserts or places where atmospheric water vapor is low. Because dry air tends to absorb liquid water, causing it to change phase into vapor, it is absorbed before reaching the ground. They are common during the summer months across much of western North America.
Strong winds often develop around dry thunderstorms as the evaporating precipitation causes excessive cooling of the air beneath the storm. This cool air then descends rapidly and fans out upon impacting the ground, an event often described as a dry microburst. As the gusty winds expand outward from the storm, dry soil and sand are often picked up by the strong winds, creating dust and sand storms known as haboobs.
In areas where trees or other vegetation are present, the lightning will cause the trees to catch fire and there is little or no rain to stop the fire. Storm winds fan the fire, causing it to spread more quickly.
In 2003, Canberra, Australia was hit by a bushfire which started from a dry storm. The storm produced lightning that struck the Brindabella Range, causing the bushfire. A week later, the fire reached Canberra and destroyed over 600 homes in different suburbs and caused mass panic in the city.Even more recently a dry thunderstorm occured in Southern Africa in 2015, which is strange because Cape Town, South Africa does not often encounter this phenomenon.
- Dry lightning and dry thunderstorms cause the majority of wildfires in the Western US - including California fires.
- Ferguson, Sue A., Steven J. McKay, Miriam L. Rorig & Paul Werth. May 2007. "Model-Generated Predictions of Dry Thunderstorm Potential".Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. Volume 46, p 605-614.
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