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'Gargantuan' hailstone may be world's largest on record

Thursday, April 30th 2020, 6:52 pm - The 2018 storm pelted the Argentine town of Villa Carlos Paz in 2018.

Surely it must have been a heck of a storm, if the hail was anything to go by.

Scientists at Penn State University in the U.S. think they've found evidence that a storm that struck a town in Argentina may have produced at least one hailstorm that is the largest on record: Somewhere between 18.8 cm and 23.6 cm.

“It’s incredible -- This is the extreme upper end of what you’d expect from hail," Penn State Associate Prof. Matthew Kumjian said in a release from the university.

Giant Hail Penn State

Image: Victoria Druetta

The current record for largest hailstone belongs to a 20.3-centimetre stone that fell in 2010 in Vivian, South Dakota, weighing in at about 878 grams. That's markedly heavier than Canada's record, a 290-gram stone that fell near Cedoux, Sask., in 1973.

Social media played a role in the researchers' work, since many of the residents of Villa Carlos Paz, the Argentine town where the major hailstorm happened, shot and posted numerous videos and pictures. The scientists followed up with some of the accounts later, interviewing eyewitnesses and visiting the sites of some of the worst damage, as well as studying meteorological data from the time.

One of the paper's authors, Penn State graduate student Rachel Gutierrez, said there was a connection between how fast a thunderstorm is spinning, and larger hail size, though stressed there was much that was still unknown.

The researchers propose hail larger than about 6 inches (15 cm) should be classified as 'gargantuan,' to help raise public awareness of the risk posed by the storms that produce them.

“In some rare cases, 6-inch hail has actually gone through roofs and multiple floors in houses. We’d like to help mitigate the impacts on life and property, to help anticipate these kinds of events.”

The researchers findings were published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.


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