The difference between isolated and scattered thunderstorms has nothing to do with the severity of the storm. Isolated and scattered are just different ways meteorologists describe the size of a thunderstorm’s coverage area.
Scattered thunderstorms cover a larger area than isolated thunderstorms, but the size of a thunderstorm has nothing to do with whether or not it’s severe. Both of these types of thunderstorms may produce heavy rain, strong winds, lightning and hail, but the differences between them are slight. Isolated storms have a smaller wind radius than scattered thunderstorms, so they tend to be less disruptive to general life and can last a shorter period of time.
A scattered thunderstorm has many updrafts and downdrafts close to each other, so it’s not as predictable as an isolated thunderstorm. In general, scattered storms tend to move more quickly and may cause more rain than a centralized isolated thunderstorm. They also have a higher chance of causing tornadic activity in places like tornado alley.
Scattered thunderstorms often appear as cumulonimbus clouds with shields of anvils on the top. They usually have thunder that rumbles loudly and can be heard from a distance, but they’re less likely to produce hail or tornadoes than isolated storms. Scattered thunderstorms also tend to be short-lived, so they don’t last as long as isolated thunderstorms. However, they can still interrupt your day and make it difficult to plan outdoor activities. When there is a 30%-50% chance of scattered storms, it’s best to bring an umbrella or poncho with you whenever you go outside.