I am a small-town girl (and when I say small I mean tiny, as in where my parents live there are 99 people living within the city limits), so I expected to have all sorts of new experiences while living in the thriving metropolis of our nation’s capitol. Since I was born and raised smack-dab in the middle of the Great Plains, I am accustomed to some pretty extreme weather conditions, but yesterday I experienced the phenomenon known as “thundersnow” for the first time ever. We have blizzards in the Midwest, and we have thunderstorms, but never before had I encountered a time when snow was cascading down out of the sky while lightning bolts were lighting up the heavens ever few minutes.
The Science Behind Thundersnow
Thundersnow storms require specific climatic conditions that are similar to those for thunderstorms, except colder. It begins innocently enough when the sun heats the ground and forces warm, moist air up into the sky, forming unstable air columns. As the moist, warm air rises it condenses to form clouds. The key condition required for thundersnow is for the air close to the ground to be warmer than the layers of air above it, but still cold enough to generate snow. These conditions do not occur very often or in many places, and when they do, significant snowfall rates of two inches or more per hour typically result.
If you wish to experience one of these unique snow storms, experts have found that they usually form along coasts where warm, moist air from the ocean can easily evaporate into the cooler, arid air above. If you reside in the United States but do not live near an ocean, you can visit Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado and the Eastern Shores of Lake Ontario–two hotspots for thundersnow events. I can personally vouch that thundersnow is really cool to see, although it is a bit eerie at the same time.
Have you had any crazy weather experiences? If you have, I would love to hear about them! We live in a mighty big world where new discoveries are made every single day. Don’t be afraid to get out there and experience some of these phenomena yourself!
Becky for My Wonderful World