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This gigantic hail may be the largest on record

Scientists are studying a 2018 storm that unleashed "gargantuan" hailstones on Argentina.

This "gargantuan" hailstone fell in Argentina in 2018.
Victoria Druetta

We often talk about hail in sporting terms. Golf-ball-sized hail. Tennis-ball-sized hail. But "volleyball sized hail" is an unexpected phrase.

A 2018 storm in Argentina dropped monster hailstones, one of which may have set a new world record. Researchers at Penn State took a closer look at the storm and proposed a new classification for hailstones over 6 inches: "gargantuan."

One particular hailstone recorded from the storm measured between 7.4 inches and 9.3 inches (18.5 centimeters and 23.6 centimeters) across. The researchers estimated the size based off a photograph. The current hail record belongs to a 2010 hailstone from South Dakota that clocked in at 8 inches (20 centimeters) across.

The Penn State team examined images of hail collected from the thunderstorm, interviewed eyewitnesses and surveyed damage in Villa Carlos Paz, a city in central Argentina. 

"Such a well-observed case is an important step forward in understanding environments and storms that produce gargantuan hail, and ultimately how to anticipate and detect such extreme events," said Penn State meteorologist Matthew Kumjian, lead author of a paper on the hail published this month in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Hail doesn't have to be as large as that from the 2018 Argentina storm to cause significant amounts of damage to homes, vehicles and crops. 

The gargantuan hail conjures up images of '50s sci-fi movies featuring over-sized terrors. "It's incredible," said Kumjian. "This is the extreme upper end of what you'd expect from hail."