Thunder. Winter thunderstorm. Snow flash. They are all different names for the same rare phenomenon – and when that happens it is epic.
Thanks to social media thundersnow has become more aware lately. It is partly because observers are keen to share their videos about capturing it on the camera – and rightly so. It's spectacular!
Don't believe in us? Then you've never seen The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore responds to Thundersnow.
Are you looking for more facts about this curious phenomenon? Continue reading.
What is thundersnow?
The name says pretty much everything. Thundersnow occurs when thunder and lightning can be heard or seen when it is snowing out. It's rare, but it's not a myth ̵
How is thundersnow formed?
The conditions must be just right . Thundersnow typically forms like most summer thunderstorms: hot, humid air moves near the ground rising and meets dense, cold air into the atmosphere. (Meteorologists call the rapidly rising air a "mission".) This forms a riot.
Within the cloud, the warm air has small drops of water. The cold air has small ice crystals. When the water and ice meet, they create an electric charge. This creates conditions for lightning and thunder.
How rare is thundersnow?
It's pretty rare. According to a 2009 study from the Royal Meteorological Society, this phenomenon occurs in only 0.07 percent of the snowstorms in the United States.
Why? For starters, the necessary mixture of hot and cold air is much more common during humid summers. The winter temperatures can be free, and you need a source of warmer air to form a strong mission. Therefore, you typically see thunder snow under dramatic weather conditions that gain strength over hot water – like a northerly, lake effect snow or a "bomb cyclone."
What's more, even though does thunderstorms during a snowstorm – you're less likely to hear it. Light, fluffy snow seems like a sound absorber and muffles often echoing thunder.
Where is thundersnow most likely to occur?
In the United States, some regions generally provide the best environment for Thundersnow: the Great Lakes, Central United States and Västerbotten.
Thundersnow is more common around the large lakes because hot air can rise out of the water. In addition to causing lake effect snow, where several inches can fall within an hour, this warm air can create thunderstorms.
The same thing applies to mountain ranges, where large changes in height allow warm air pockets to get stuck over colder air below.
Is thundersnow dangerous?
Generally speaking, thundersnow is no more dangerous than your normal thunderstorm or winter storm. A danger is lightning, so be sure to brush on the basics of lightning protection. Another danger is accumulating snow, which can reduce your visibility and make driving more difficult. Read more about what to do if you get stuck in a whiteout.
Be prepared for some weather
If you know that a winter storm is approaching, it is always a good idea to make sure you are ready. (Read these 7 things to do if a snowstorm is in the forecast.)
The same applies with insurance. Knowing that you have the right coverage – and understanding how it works – can help you stress less about the unexpected things in life.
A better insurance experience begins with the Erie Insurance agent – where you get outstanding coverage, great pricing and service from local people who care. Find a local agent in your area or learn more about ERIE.