What are the stages of a thunderstorm?

The three stages of a thunderstorm are cumulus, mature, and dissipating.

The formation of a thunderstorm requires sufficient water vapor, an unstable lapse rate, and a lifting action.  The cumulus stage includes an updraft.  The growth rate can exceed 3,000 feet per minute.  Eventually the rising air cools and creates a downdraft that coexists with the updraft. This is the start of the mature phase.  Falling precipitation is an indicator of the start of the mature phase.  Downdrafts characterize the dissipating phase.  Once the precipitation and downdrafts stop, the dissipating phase is over.

Three stages of a thunderstorm


FAA AC 00-6B Aviation Weather pg. 19-1
FAA-H-8083-25B Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge pg. 12-22

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