The Boom about Lightning

Has anyone heard of a thundersnow? Well it exists, a thunderstorm in the middle of a snow shower!

This freak phenomena is one that may happen once a winter in a single location, and can only happen in certain areas throughout the country. The science behind this is explained well by the Weather Channel, but I am also going to break it down for you.

Normal snow storms clouds only reach up to about 20,000 feet into the atmosphere, not allowing them to have enough power or space to produce lightning within the clouds. However, this is different for things such as lake effect snow (snow storms from storms being pushed off of the great lakes that contain warmer air) or larger systems that turn into snow storms as they move north. With the warmer air stirring up the clouds, it creates almost a firing turret for the lightning to develop and grow within. These turrets rise to about 5,000 feet above the regular cloud base and the warmer air allows for the molecules to charge.

The charging of the molecules within those turrets is caused by both snow and small hailstones called grauple interacting. This interaction builds the charge up and with enough time and charge there is the possibility of lightning. This process is much like when you have static electricity from rubbing against conductive surfaces and then touching another surface unleashes the charge.

So next time you think you heard thunder in the winter but want to count that out, just reconsider and check the weather to see if the conditions are right!

6 thoughts on “The Boom about Lightning

  1. Dean Giammarco

    Very interesting post! Never realized that existed. I was curious to how this looked, here is cool video to check out about this unique weather storm. Any interesting studies done to research this phenomenon, or any history to discover this. These are probably things you should include into a blog post. Here is a Wikipedia link to it. It has history and much of what it is as well.

  2. Taylor Leigh Mitchell

    Along with Alexandra before I read this blog, I had never even heard of a “thunder snow”. Now that i read this blog it interests me to know exactly what a thundersnow looks like and effects it has. Does it sound different then a normal thunderstorm? There is a great video of what a thundersnow looks like After watching the video it looked really scary and It amazes me the powerful things that can happen in weather.

    This makes me wonder what other weather related events I don’t know about yet! I think during my free time I am going to research more about meteorology.

  3. jps6019 Post author

    Thank you so much for finding and sharing this video, even though it discredited part of my blog post it absolutely made my day! Thank you so much! I think you could be absolutely right about the two types of storms coming together, and it would definitely be something worth looking into. The systems don’t tend to occur in the same weather patterns unfortunately which makes me wonder if it is even possible for a thunderstorm to happen that late in the year.

  4. Matthew Meise Kreymborg

    Very interesting topic! Like Alexandra, I have also never heard of a thundersnow before. Your post was pretty informative, but I would have like to see more statistics about the thundersnow storms. What time of year they are most common and where they are most common. It also would be nice to see how scientists found out what they know about them now. What studies were done to acquire the knowledge presented on the Weather channel. I found some more information about them here

  5. Alexandra Herr

    Before this blog, I had never heard of a “thundersnow” before. I don’t live near any great lakes so I’m not sure I’d ever experienced one so it really never came to mind. After reading this, I decided to youtube it to see if I could find actual evidence of the lightening within a snowstorm. I was successful. Here is a video recording this event, as well as a very enthusiastic man who is extremely excited about it being caught on film. Meteorology has always been an interesting topic to me because of all the things that nature can do.

    This also makes me question the possibility of having a snowstorm and thunderstorm at the same time, rather than combined into one. I’m not exactly sure how clouds work and the processes that both go through, but maybe that is what some of these are and we just don’t know it.

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