Among the storms involved in today's modest severe weather outbreak across the south was one supercell in south-central Arkansas that towered to almost 53,000 feet and produced hail 1.75" to 2.00" in diameter. The storm had a great presentation on weather radar and made it easy to see why it was able to produce such large hail.
A television meteorologist in Little Rock posted this picture sent in by a viewer in Holly Springs, Arkansas of a plate full of hail a little larger than golf balls.
— Todd Yakoubian (@KATV_Weather) March 28, 2014
Here's is a radar view of the storm when it was over Holly Springs. The deep purple and gray colors just north of town show where the largest hail occurred.
The white line that I drew through the center of the storm is where I've made a cross-section to see what its internal structure looks like. Here's that cross-section:
The very strong updraft (warm, moist air ingested by storms for energy) helped keep the hail aloft long enough to grow to between 1.75" and 2.00" in diameter. The suspended hailstones in the storm appear as the deep purple and gray colors, which are circled and denoted as the "hail core."
The updraft also allowed the top of the storm to break through the tropopause — the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere beyond which air doesn't rise without being forced to by something like a violent thunderstorm — and reach a respectable 52,200 feet at its tallest point.
A look at the "3D radar" also shows the impressive structure of the thunderstorm.
This view draws a rough outline of the clouds that make up the storm, with the purple hail core highlighted near its updraft. The top of the thunderstorm is right around 40,000 feet (where the tropopause is located), but the tilted updraft allowed a large portion of the strongest part of the storm to punch through the tropopause and exceed 50,000 feet.
Storms like this should occur more often as the atmosphere warms up and severe weather season reaches its peak over the next couple of months.
[All images via GR2Analyst]