After a huge hailstorm on Sept. 15, 2010, a Topeka, Kan., meteorologist took to social media to read what people were saying about the severe weather. What he found would go into the city's weather record books.
Scott Blair found photos of one massive hailstone after the other, including one whose diamater was more than 2 inches (5 centimeters) larger than the largest ever found in the state, reported the Wichita Eagle.
The finding highlights a new trend in weather reports on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter that is helping meteorologists better document everything from tornadoes to lightning. Five of the largest hailstones on record in the United States have been found since 2003, due in part to the rise in social media, the Eagle reported.
"If social media didn't exist . . . it's possible that we would have never known about any of these stones that exceeded the state hailstone record size," Blair told the Eagle.
Hail is precipitation in the form of balls or lumps of ice that fall from convective clouds, usually cumulonimbus.
During the 2010 storm, hail up to the size of softballs caused significant damage to roofs, vehicles and lawns, according to Mary Knapp, state climatologist and director of the Weather Data Library at Kansas State University.
The record hailstone measured 7.75 inches (19.7 cm) in diameter shortly after the stone fell in west Wichita. However, the official weight and circumference were taken 15 hours after the stone had fallen. The stone weighed 1.1 pounds (0.5 kilograms) and had a circumference of 15.5 inches (39.4 cm) at that time.
The largest hailstone ever recorded in the United States was about the size of a soccer ball. It measured 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter, 18.62 inches (47.3 cm) in circumference and weighed 1.93 pounds (0.88 kg). It was found on July 23, 2010, in Vivian, S.D.