Thunderstorm, Thundershower...What's the Difference?

Published: Mar. 16, 2001 at 1:51 AM EST|Updated: Oct. 9, 2006 at 8:33 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

What's the difference between a thundershower and a thunderstorm?  That is a question that has a technical and psychological answer.  Technically, any cloud producing lightning is considered a thunderstorm, even if there is no rain falling.  The National Weather Service reports it as "TS" in their hourly observations at the airport.  TSRA means a Thunderstorm with a Rain Shower, which is what most of us think of when we think of thunderstorms...Thunder, Lightning and Rain.  But, when meteorologists (Mainly on TV and Radio) want to indicate that thunderstorms with light rain are expected, they will call them Thundershowers, even though there is no technical abbreviation for a thundershower.  It's just a good way of taking the much stronger sounding word "storm" out of the mix, and adding the gentler sounding description of "shower".  Properly, thunderstorms have either no rain (TS), light rain (TSRA-), moderate rain (TSRA), or heavy rain (TSRA+).  But, for a viewer, it's tough to explain all that, so we generally talk about weaker thunderstorms as thundershowers, even though there is "technically" no such thing.