When thunderstorms strike, they often do so with a set of weather phenomena. Hail is one of them: some thunderstorms produce icy materials that can be relatively small. Others produce extremely large hail size, which can be really damaging to crops, plants, vehicles and properties.
In this article, we will take a look at hail size itself in more detail – rather than the causes, we’ll provide information about the object itself. More precisely, we’ll walk through a hail size chart. Using this chart, you can estimate what the size of hail at your location looks like.
Hail Size Chart
This chart can be used to estimate the size of hail and was created based on reference materials of the United States National Weather Service.
Small hail size: peas, peanuts and pennies
Not every thunderstorm produces very big hail. Fortunately, in fact, because large hail can be quite damaging to vehicles and even buildings! In many cases, we thus see small hail fall from thunderstorms.
One of the smallest sizes of hail can be compared with peas. They’re approximately 0.25 inch wide, or 0.60 centimeters if you’re used to the metric system. Pea-sized hail is not damaging for buildings and vehicles, but as with any hail, it can be damaging to plants, as becomes clear from a study in Spain (Sanchez et al., 1996).
Hail that is a bit larger can be compared to peanuts. Being 1.3 centimeters or 0.50 inches wide, they’re already a bit bigger than pea-sized hail, but there is still nothing to worry about with respect to property damage whatsoever.
The last one from the category small sized hail is hail as wide as pennies, with a size of 0.75 inch or 1.9 centimeters. While still too small to cause damage to property, it can already be quite damaging to (especially) small plants and crops.
Small to medium hail: nickels, quarters and dollars
The small to medium sized hail category is entirely dedicated to financial analogies, haha – as hail from this category can be compared to nickels, quarters and dollars.
Nickel-sized hail marks the entry to this second category, and is approximately 0.9 inches or 2.2 centimeters wide. Like penny-sized hail, it can already be damaging to plants and crops. From what I can estimate, it can also be damaging to ill-protected properties, such as weak glass. However, this does not happen often.
Nickel-sized hail is followed in order by quarter-sized hail (1.0 inch/2.5 centimeters) and half dollar-sized hail (1.3 inches / 3.2 centimeters). The properties of this hail with respect to crop, plant and property damage are the same. Especially half-dollar sized hail can already produce damage to cars: windshields can be hit, causing so-called asterisks. What’s more, the outside of your car can also be dented.
Large hail size: ping pong balls, golf balls, eggs and tennis balls
Sometimes, thunderstorms are more severe, and then they can produce large sized hail. It’s not uncommon for storms to produce hail the size of ping pong balls, which equals 1.5 inches or 3.8 centimeters. Especially in regions where severe thunderstorms are likely, such as the United States in tornado season, they can fall relatively often.
Still, they can become larger. Golf ball sized hail is the next logical step, having a size equaling 1.75 inches or 4.6 centimeters. That’s really large hail, and can be really damaging to vehicles and other properties besides the damage it can cause to crops and plants.
If that’s not enough, egg sized hail can be 2 inches or 5.0 centimeters in size! Equally damaging, you don’t really want this hail to fall near you. Hail this big, while not impossible, is relatively rare in occurrence.
Extremely large hail size: baseballs, apples, softballs and grapefruits
The most severe thunderstorms can produce hail that is even larger. Fortunately for many, and especially those who live in the areas where such severe storms occur regularly, these sizes are rare occurrences.
Some storms produce baseball sized hail. That’s hail 2.75 inches wide, or 7.1 centimeters. Some hail however equals the size of a (large) apple, with 3.0 inches or 7.6 centimeters. Next up is softball sized hail (4.0 inches / 10.2 centimeters), finally followed by grapefruit sized hail (4.5 inches / 11.4 centimeters).
When extremely large hail falls, the damage to properties can be extreme. Vehicles will be damaged significantly and properties will also be damaged by the sheer size of the hail stones. Then, crops can even be destroyed. A long story short, you don’t want this hail to fall.
In this article, we looked at hail sizes – and provided a chart which can help you determine the size of hail in your back yard. What is the biggest hail that you have seen fall? Please feel free to leave a message in the comments box below 💬 I’d love to hear from you! Please do the same if you have any questions or other remarks. If possible, I’ll answer and improve my site 🙂 Thank you for reading MisterWeather today, and enjoy the weather! ☀
Estimating hail size. (n.d.). National Weather Service. https://www.weather.gov/boi/hailsize
Hail crop damage: How to care for hail damaged plants. (2012, July 14). Gardening Know How. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/environmental/hail-crop-damage.htm
Hail damage. (n.d.). Missouri Botanical Garden. https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/environmental/hail.aspx
Sánchez, J. L., Fraile, R., De la Madrid, J. L., De la Fuente, M. T., Rodríguez, P., & Castro, A. (1996). Crop damage: The hail size factor. Journal of Applied Meteorology, 35(9), 1535-1541. https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0450(1996)035<1535:cdthsf>2.0.co;2