Thundersnow - a winter phenomenon

22nd January, 2015

Last week we experienced some of the coldest temperatures and heaviest snowfall of the winter so far. Overnight temperatures fell well below freezing in many areas forcing the Met Office to issue yellow ‘be aware’ warnings for snow across parts of northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In some places the snow that followed was particularly significant and the media were quick to pick up on the latest meteorological buzzword - ‘thundersnow’.

Several areas of the UK reported experiencing this rare winter phenomenon last week, including:

  • Cornwall
  • Wales
  • Teeside

Now thundersnow might sound pretty exciting, but just like the ‘weather bomb’ we experienced before Christmas it is far less dramatic than it actually sounds.

Rare Winter Phenomenon

Traditionally a thunderstorm occurs when the ground is heated by the sun and warm air rises into the cooler air above it. These conditions are more common during the summer months, but it is not unusual for us to experience them during the winter as well. Thundersnow is the phenomenon that occurs when the weather is cold and as a result the rain you would usually expect to see during the storm falls as snow.

Thundersnow can often result in severe blizzard conditions and snowfall rates of between two and four inches are fairly common. As a result of the blizzard conditions, visibility can often be reduced to less than a quarter of a mile. Whilst the thunder from a traditional thunderstorm will often be heard from miles away; in the case of thundersnow the sound of the thunder is supressed by the snow and the lightning will appear brighter as it reflects off the snowflakes.

Paul Knightly, Forecast Manager at Meteogroup, explains in the video below how the thundersnow that hit the UK last week was formed

How Common Is It?

This phenomenon is relatively rare and will obviously only occur when conditions for a thunderstorm coincide with temperatures being cold enough for snow to form. There are however a number of locations around the world where you are more likely to encounter thundersnow. These include:

  • The Great Lakes area of the United States and Canada
  • The British Isles
  • North-western Europe
  • Kanazawa and the Sea of Japan
  • Mount Everest

Snow Clearing Services

Snow can be incredibly unpredictable, but with more expected in the coming days and weeks it always pays to be prepared. We know the impact that snow can have upon your business, so our snow clearance services ensure that you continue to operate as usual with pathways and car parks kept clear for staff, visitors and the general public.

Do not hesitate to contact us on 01728 633900 if you would like to discuss a bespoke gritting and snow clearance plan for your business or organisation.

Cars stranded in blizzard conditions

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