hector thunderstorm australia tiwi islands named
© Murray Fredricks/Australian Bureau of Meteorology
Hector ('the Convector') forming over the Tiwi Islands near Australia
During the wet season, the Tiwi Islands, located in Australia's Northern Territory get hit by a storm every day at 3:00 p.m.

Meteorologists and scientists tend to assign names to natural phenomena that have a significant impact. Hurricanes are one specific example of this naming process. This organization makes it easier to document and communicate about these events. Instead of mentioning the type of storm, time of year, and location, scientists can simply refer to the assigned name and everyone is on the same page. While prominence is a major factor determining whether a storm is given enough attention to receive a name, there are some smaller examples that earn their own title. The Tiwi Islands, that lie just off the coast of the Northern Territory of Australia, are home to such a storm known as Hector. Hector Storm or Hector the Convector are two other widely-used names as well.

Hector is formed each day over these islands without miraculous consistency. In between September and December, the thunderstorm makes its way above the Melville and Bathurst Islands at 3 p.m. every day. While the exact timing might fluctuate a few minutes, you'll have to excuse Hector since clouds aren't known for their punctuality. The active clouds can be seen from Darwin, which is located just to the south, on mainland Australia. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reports that the islands of Melville and Bathurst are the ideal places for convection. Both islands happen to be shaped like pyramids. As a result, ocean breezes come ashore and end up colliding at the pinnacle of the "pyramid." A similar phenomenon occurs in Ontario as breezes from lakes collide and the masses of air crash into each other. When this occurs, the only place to go is up.

In Hector Storm's case, the colliding winds can climb around 12.4 miles into the air. The storm cell created by convection beings to grow larger as it towers high above the Tiwi Islands. The storm even reaches high enough to climb through the tropopause at times. While the thunderstorm is impressively consistent, it doesn't take the exact same form every day. Like most consistent or reliable things in nature, there are slight variations in Hector's formation. Sometimes, there is more than one thunderhead instead of an impressive monolith that casts one giant shadow over the islands. However, the storm cell is formed by the same process each time.

There are some interesting sites to keep an eye out for when the storm is formed by one giant cell. If you see a picture of the storm, it's most likely in this singular form since it's a more impressive site. When Hector is comprised of one storm cloud, onlookers can see a boundary of outflow that bursts out from sides of the storm. The interesting boundaries that seem to develop on Hector are caused by cold downdrafts that are associated with the storm's underside.

During World War II, the storm was named by pilots who flew past the intriguing cloud. Hector's consistent formation, peculiar shape, and nearly static location made it a perfect beacon of navigation for both mariners and pilots in the area. People in the area quickly learned that the storm always formed just North of the city of Darwin. National Geographic published an extensive and detailed study of Hector Storm. The piece included pictures of trees damaged in the area along with specific details about the speed of updrafts, references to tornado-related events, and more. Several studies regarding meteorological phenomena have centered on this unique storm. However, the consistency of its formation has proved as a useful asset for those interested in studying lightning and thunderstorms. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology says that Hector is one of the most actively studied storms on the planet.

If you ever find yourself in Northern Australian, it might be worth a trip to Darwin to see this impressive cloud form. It's not common to see something natural that is so consistent and reliable. Old Faithful, one of the largest geysers in North America, is located in Yellowstone National Park. Unlike other geysers in the area, Old Faithful is known due to the predictability of its eruptions. In many ways, Hector is the Old Faithful of thunderstorms.