Massive hailstorms hit Madrid on Monday, lasting all of 20 minutes but so intense that streets became raging rivers sweeping cars away. Spain’s meteorological agency AEMET recorded more than 9,300 lightning strikes in six hours.
Madrid’s emergency services said they had been called to 1,134 incidents between 4 pm and 9 pm on Monday, most of them for minor issues such as fallen tree branches or flooding in garages and basements, El Pais reported.
Meteorologist Benito Fuentes told El Pais that strong storms such as these are common in August. “At the end of summer, the atmosphere is unstable, which causes air to rise for dynamic reasons, not thermal ones.”
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The rain disrupted service on the underground railways which remained closed on Tuesday and some flights were forced to divert from Barajas Airport. The weather in the region returned to normal overnight.
Fiery bolts of lightning intermingled with icy hail is reminiscent of the Biblical seventh plague that appeared with its elemental opposite: fire.
In fact, Jewish sources predict that all of the plagues will reappear in the final Redemption but in even more powerful forms. It is written in Midrash Tanchuma, homiletic teachings collected around the fifth century, that “just as God struck the Egyptians with 10 plagues, so too He will strike the enemies of the Jewish people at the time of the Redemption.”
This concept was explained by Rabbi Bahya ben Asher, a 13th-century Spanish commentator, who wrote, “In Egypt, God used only part of His strength. When the final redemption comes, God will show much, much more of His power.”
Though it may seem counterintuitive, warm temperatures in the summer months do not prevent ice balls from raining down. Hailstorms occur when warm, moist air from the ground rises upwards forming showers and storms. Temperatures higher up, even in summer, can get well below freezing, allowing ice crystals to form along with something called “supercooled water” which then grows into pellets of ice. Air rises rapidly in severe thunderstorms, suspending the hailstones and allowing them to expand in size. Eventually, they get too heavy and fall to the ground.
In fact, if claims of climate change prove to be true, the world may see the plague of hail return with a vengeance. A study published in New Scientist focused on the size of hailstones in recent storms since it is this aspect that generates the most devastation. The study theorized that both the size of individual hailstones and the total mass that fails per storm could increase if temperatures rise globally.
“As the atmosphere warms, it holds more moisture. This means more water can fall out of the sky when conditions are right, in the form of rain, snow, hail or graupel (snow pellets),” New Scientist reported.