Nighttime lightning from a thunderstorm in Argentina during the RELAMPAGO field campaign. CSU atmospheric scientist Kristen Rasmussen has hunted storms many times in the region.

Courtesy of Kristen Rasmussen

During monsoon season, it can feel like the Front Range is the stormiest place on Earth.

But Colorado has nothing on the Andean foothills of Argentina, where hailstones frequently reach the size of grapefruits, or even larger.

Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Kristen Rasmussen has chased dangerous storms across the world, including those in Argentina. She recently led another team of scientists for six weeks in the South America country. Rasmussen talked to Colorado Matters about what makes the storms in this region so mighty.

What's the secret ingredient to these Andean thunderstorms? The mountains themselves. The Andes are much taller than the Rockies, averaging 13,000 feet tall along the 4,300-mile range, and provide a unique environment to feed giant storms.