When severe storm enthusiasts think of hailstorms, Oklahoma and Kansas come to mind, but in 2022, the United States tally was dwarfed by reports of frozen precipitation from across Europe, with the continent seeing record-breaking events.
The European Severe Storms Laboratory said there were 8,224 large hail reports in 2022, which overshot 2021’s record-breaking year by nearly 2,800 reports.
Sightings stretched from the Atlantic coast through most of the continent, with France, Italy and Germany topping the list with the most sightings.
The ESSL said the two most impactful events were a hailstorm that injured 100 people in Casamassima, Italy, on August 19 and a severe weather outbreak that led to damaged windows and roofs, dozens of injuries and death in northeastern Spain on August 30.
An analysis of the year’s most extensive outbreaks showed that many of the events occurred when convective available potential energy or CAPE was high, and shear values were in the modest range.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines CAPE as a measurement of the amount of instability available for thunderstorms.
Strong updrafts are needed to keep raindrops suspended long enough for the water to become frozen and acquire additional moisture to become larger hailstones.
Some hail events can last only a few moments, but major outbreaks can last several hours.
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During the spring of 2022, European meteorologists said they tracked a cell that produced hail for around five hours and traveled over 180 miles through France.
The storm was reported to have injured four people, damaged 250 houses and impacted at least 1,000 vehicles.
Of the more than 8,000 witness accounts of hail, 1,334 were considered to be around the size of an egg and 18 were at least softball-sized or larger.
If any of these large hailstones had fallen in the United States, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning would have been issued by the National Weather Service, which considers hail one inch or larger to be damaging.
A U.S. quarter is nearly an inch in diameter and serves as a general baseline for when hail turns from a nuisance into an event that is both damaging and severe.
Swiss Re, an insurance firm based in Zurich, Switzerland, calculated losses in France alone totaled more than $5 billion in 2022 and exceeded the previous record by a factor of at least three.
In addition to the increased storminess, analysts also blamed record losses on inflation, increased urbanization and an apparent increase in vulnerability, made up by an increase in solar panel usage.
Much like the U.S., spring and summer are the peak seasons for hail in Europe when potential energy is the highest.
As well as hail, tornadoes and damaging wind events accompany the severe weather outbreaks, but amounts pale in comparison to what are reported in the U.S. annually.