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What the ‘Hail’ Is Going On? Is Ice Falling From The Sky Normal In Malaysia?

What the ‘Hail’ Is Going On? Is Ice Falling From The Sky Normal In Malaysia?

Akmal Hakim

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Residents in Ipoh, Perak had quite an icy afternoon, as a hail shower rained down in several parts of the district.

Ipohreans have been flooding social media with videos and images of the freak thunderstorm that occurred around 5 pm on May 20, 2020 which was said to have lasted for about 15 minutes.

In the viral videos, hailstones can be seen raining down from the heavens and littering the ground with chunks of ice the size of… well, regular ice cubes.

While some people were sent ducking for cover from the falling ‘debris’, others marveled at the wondrous phenomenon, even grabbing a few frozen souvenirs along the way.

Fortunately, no injuries or severe property damage were reported from the event.

What the ‘hail’ is going on?

Though rare,  it’s not too uncommon for hail storms and showers to occur here in these parts of the world.

Hailstones are a type of precipitation or water in the atmosphere that falls down to earth like rain and snow.

Hail Definition, Causes, and Formation
(Credit: ThoughtCo)

Hail forms when drops of water, which would typically fall as rain, is instead pushed upwards by strong updrafts into the upper, colder regions of a storm cloud.

These raindrops then freeze together into chunks of ice, forming layer by layer as more water freezes onto the hailstone’s surface.

Once it becomes too heavy for the wind to carry it upwards, or if the updraft weakens or stops, these ice chunks that can measure between 5 millimeters to 15 centimeters then fall to the ground as hail.

Hail | meteorology | Britannica
(Credit: Britannica)

According to Prof Fredolin Tangang, Chairman of the Department of Earth Sciences and Environment at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), here in Malaysia, hail would occur during episodes of deep atmospheric convection or when towering cumulonimbus clouds form way up in the sky, in just the right conditions.

It needs the right ingredient; plenty of moisture, heat and no strong wind aloft…

UKM Department of Earth Sciences and Environment Chairman Prof Fredolin Tangang.

The Professor explains that these conditions are typically present during Malaysia’s inter-monsoon periods (check out our previous article, HERE, to find out more about Malaysia’s monsoon seasons) during the months of April and May, as well as between September and October when strong winds hit the country from multiple directions, causing thunderstorms and in some occasions, hail to fall.

Wind patterns during the monsoon transitional phase.
(Credit: Met Malaysia)

Curiously, we asked Prof. Fredolin weather Malaysia would be experiencing more hailstorms in the coming future, with global warming, climate change and what not, going on. And his answer seems to be pointing in the direction of a, YES.

It is a bit uncommon but it happened before and it can happen again… It is possible due to the higher availability of moisture and heat.

UKM Department of Earth Sciences and Environment Chairman Prof Fredolin Tangang.

Over the years hail has rained down in parts of Selangor, Johor, Sarawak and Sabah.

In fact, the folks in Ipoh had experienced a similar hail shower most recently in 2018 which also had caused quite the chatter, then.

Here’s to hoping we don’t need to be wearing helmets out in a storm in the days to come.


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