What is thundersnow? Explaining this rare winter storm occurrence

PHOTO: A woman walks her dog through heavy snow in Hoboken, N.J., March 7, 2018.PlaySeth Wenig/AP
WATCH What is thundersnow?

A powerful nor'easter dumping heavy snow on the Northeast today brought thundersnow -- when thunder and lightning occur during a snowstorm -- to New York City and New Jersey.

Interested in Weather?

Add Weather as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Weather news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
Add Interest

The ingredients for thundersnow are similar to a thunderstorm that forms in the summertime: warm, moist air rising toward a colder air mass above, creating instability.

Although the lower air mass has to be warmer than the air above, the entire column has to be cold enough for snow to fall and reach the ground.

PHOTO: A man crosses the street through heavy snow in Hoboken, N.J., March 7, 2018. Seth Wenig/AP
A man crosses the street through heavy snow in Hoboken, N.J., March 7, 2018.

This can be tricky during the wintertime, which is why thundersnow doesn’t happen often.

If it all comes together, that enhanced upward motion of air increases snow growth and causes enough electrical charge separation within the cloud for lightning to strike.

Thundersnow often coincides with very heavy snow, usually falling at 1 to 3 inches per hour. The atmospheric instability that creates the thundersnow is also what causes these extreme snowfall rates.

Just captured some lightning and thunder during the #snowstorm #ThunderSnow

A post shared by Mike (@nyml) on Mar 7, 2018 at 9:43am PST

Comments