Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet


What is thundersnow?

Have you ever heard thunder during a big snowstorm? If so, you’ve experienced an extremely rare weather occurrence.

The ingredients necessary for thundersnow are so uncommon that it’s estimated that only .07 percent of snowstorms are associated with thunder — which explains the excited reaction from the narrator in the video above.

Thundersnow — when thunder and lightning occur during a snowstorm — is most likely to happen during late winter or early spring when a mass of cold air meets warm, most air near the ground.

University of Missouri atmospheric scientist Patrick Market says that heavy snowfall is common during thundersnow. In a 30-year study of snowstorms involving lightning, Market found that there’s an 86 percent chance that at least 6 inches of snow will accumulate within a 70-mile radius of the lightning.

thundersnow Snow is normally such a quiet event, but not when thunder is involved. (Photo: Simun Ascic/Shutterstock)

He says witnessing thundersnow is a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but even then, you likely won’t see much.

“These storms don’t move, so they can dump up to seven feet [two meters] of snow in one day,” he told Scientific American. “They are very intense snowstorms, but they are very local.”

Thundersnow is most common in the Midwest, the Great Lakes and along coasts where moisture from warm water can easily evaporate into the colder, drier air above.

Some of the places that most frequently report the rare weather event are Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado; Bozeman, Montana; and the shores of Lake Ontario.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since it was first published in January 2014.

Laura Moss writes about a variety of topics with a focus on animals, science, language and culture. But she mostly writes about cats.

What is thundersnow?

Hearing thunder during a snowstorm is uncommon. Here’s what to expect if you witness the rare weather event.