What is Thunderstorm and Difference between Isolated and Scattered Thunderstorm


You must have often read the terms “isolated” and “scattered” showers or thunderstorms while reading a weather report. What do these terms mean? Most people confuse these terms to define the severity of the storm, which is an incorrect notion.

These terms largely define the coverage of the thunderstorm rather than its severity. Before I expound on the meanings of isolated thunderstorms and scattered thunderstorms, let’s briefly understand what thunderstorms are and how they are formed.

what is thunderstorm

What is Thunderstorm?

A thunderstorm is defined as a natural calamity that is a violent amalgamation of lightning, thunder, rainwater, clouds, and gusty winds. When these components come together, they can form a severe thunderstorm.

Thunderstorms can lead to heavy rains, hail, and snow to a vast extent. They are formed when moist and warm air rises upwards towards the colder area.

This instability of the air is the key ingredient of the thunderstorm’s recipe. The lifted air goes on to form cumulonimbus clouds and leads to rain.

When this heavy rain is backed by lightning and strong winds, a thunderstorm could be said to have formed. It would be helpful if you own a reputed lightning detector to detect those thunderstorms.

Thunderstorms can hamper the environment to a great extent. Rather than a boon, they can be considered a bane for the environment that needs to be tackled. As it is a natural calamity, so it is inevitable. No matter how hard the meteorologists try to predict the weather conditions but the scope of uncertainty is always there.

The thunderstorm is not only of one type, but it can be classified in various other forms. These bifurcations of the thunderstorms vary from one other in some specific aspect.

But, broadly classifying, we can classify these thunderstorms as isolated and scattered. To know more about this aspect, keep reading further and don’t lose your zeal to know more interesting things about it.

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Difference between Isolated and Scattered Thunderstorm

There is a distinction between isolated and scattered thunderstorms that one needs to understand clearly. So, without delaying much, let's jump into the topic.

What does Isolated Thunderstorms mean

Isolated Thunderstorm
  • The primary difference between Isolated and Scattered Thunderstorms lies in the range of coverage of the storm. 
  • Isolated thunderstorm refers to storms that cover a small area of the forecast. 
  • Generally, an area between 10% to 30% of the area falls under the jurisdiction of an isolated thunderstorm.
  • Rise in the number of people suffering from medical conditions, ailments, and illnesses.
  • Isolated thundershowers are the kind of thunderstorms that are hard to forecast and plan for, unlike scattered thunderstorms.
  • In Isolated thunderstorms, you will witness very unpredictable weather like a sunny atmosphere at a certain place, and a few miles from it will have great thunderstorms.
  • With an Isolated thunderstorm, you need not cancel your outdoor plans because there are hardly any chances of being stuck in it, and it is not dangerous like the scattered thunderstorm.
  • With isolated showers or thunderstorms, if you observe the lightning from a distant place, then there is a probable scope that lightning will stop short, and you can resume your daily chores.

What does Scattered Thunderstorms mean

Scattered Thunderstorm
  • In simple words, Scattered Thunderstorms can be defined by the affected area, which is very large compared to isolated storms.
  • The affected region's expanse could lie anywhere between 30% to 40% of the forecast area.
  • Scattered thunderstorms are more dangerous in contrast with isolated ones as a greater land is affected by it.
  • Moreover, the thunderstorm duration is also considered to be more in the case of a scattered thunderstorm.
  • Scattered thunderstorms are far scarier than an isolated thunderstorms.
  • If you have any outdoor plans, then in case of scattered thunderstorms, it is always advisable to halt those plans until the situation comes under control. Otherwise, it can prove to be a lot more dangerous.
  • In scattered showers or thunderstorms, there is a significant probability that one location will be affected more than others, unlike the isolated storm.
  • During the scattered thundershower, it is always kept in the mind that if the area is forecasted with scattered thunderstorms, then there is a great probability that it will encounter multiple rounds of storms throughout the day.
  • In a scattered thunderstorm, one must remain prepared for uncertain climatic changes ranging from instant sunny conditions to lightning scenarios.
  • While scattered thunderstorms are taking place, you can't resume your outdoor activities because it can be dangerous to stick in such a situation.
  • There can be a concrete analysis of when the scattered thunderstorm will occur, but studies have revealed that the days of scattered thunderstorms are much cloudier than normal days.


We have tried to give you an in-depth analysis of the scattered vs isolated thunderstorms. There can be other variations of the thunderstorms, but getting acquainted with them gradually will help you assimilate in a better fashion, and you can easily know about each variation.

It is always advisable not to take these thunderstorms for granted. Even if you are not aware of the type of thunderstorm taking place around you, it is always better to stay indoors than to get stuck somewhere in a dangerous situation.

No doubt, it is a natural calamity, and no one can ever be so sure about its occurrence, but one can always contribute its part by staying wherever they are and not rushing outdoor.

I agree that being stuck in such situations is panicking, but if you lost your calm, it could even cause more worse than good. Always stay calm and composed even if you are stuck somewhere to handle the situations aptly.

Now, I hope you have understood the difference between isolated and scattered thunderstorms. Still, if you have any doubt, please ask your question below will try to answer your query. Thank you!

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About the Author


I am Tim, a weather enthusiast who loves to watch hurricanes and all other harsh weather conditions. I studied B.Sc(Meteorology) at the University of Miami. With excellent knowledge of Weather Forecasting, Meteorology, and Environmental Science, I am currently working in San Francisco as a Meteorologist. Also, I am a member of The Weather Channel and AccuWeather. In this blog, I will write a detailed review of Weather instruments that you need for survival and other activities.