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post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I have spoken of this great event here & elsewhere. Cool as cool can be & ususally precursor to HUGE accumulation. Hear it in Ut a few times a year & once in CO. An article on this "rare" phenom.
Scientist to Tackle 'Thundersnow' Rarity

By BILL DRAPER, Associated Press Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Sometimes in the middle of a Midwestern snowstorm, thunder growls and lightning sends dull flashes among the clouds. A University of Missouri researcher has received a $460,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (news - web sites) to find out when and why.

Missouri scientist Patrick Market said for the past four years he's been looking into a phenomenon known as thundersnow, an apparently rare event that some researchers believe foreshadows an intense snowstorm with heavy accumulation.

Part of his five-year study, which began in July, will try to determine whether thundersnow is rare or just doesn't get reported much.

"One of the questions I'd like to answer precisely is how rare it is," Market said. "Some of it may actually go undetected."

A thundersnow storm Jan. 17, 1994, in Louisville, Ky., dropped about 2 feet of snow, Market said. The center of the storm — a narrow band that contained thunder and lightning — went directly over Louisville, where the biggest accumulation was recorded.

A year later, in January 1995, the same happened in Columbia, Mo., he said. Thundersnow was reported over the city, where the harshest part of the storm hit.

"The kicker here is that the lines of snow were pretty narrow," Market said. "If you took the same band of snowfall 20 miles north of Louisville, or bump the one that fell on Columbia over a little so it affected Sedalia instead, it becomes more of a footnote and doesn't grab as much attention."

Thundersnow is more likely to happen around the Great Lakes because of instability caused by the "lake effect," Market said. However, the study he is concentrating more on non-lake effect thundersnow that occurs in a loose arc across the central U.S.

States where thundersnow is most frequently reported are Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and into northern Texas, Market said.

A priority of the study will be to find ways to forecast thundersnow. Market and a team of students will make about three or four road trips each winter to chase major snowstorms in search of the elusive thundersnow.

Greg Koch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (news - web sites) in Pleasant Hill, Mo., said forecasting thundersnow would greatly help meteorologists understand where the biggest accumulations might hit.

"Thundersnow oftentimes is very small-scale phenomena which can lead to wide variations in snow amounts in very small area," Koch said.

Market is trying to enlist the help of anyone with Internet access who witnesses lightning in a winter snowstorm. He has set up a Web site where people can fill out a form and write what they remember.

The next step, he said, would be to look at what causes thundersnow, such as updrafts similar to those found in summer storms.


On the Net:
I think they underestimate how much this happens, lets report to the above URL address when it does. I would love to hear the results.
post #2 of 20
I have seen this at least three times. Once, driving across Kansas in a blizzard, in the early 70's; once, during a major snowstorm in suburban Philadelphia, and last year over President's weekend at Alta.

The first time was by far the weirdest... My friend and I had been driving watch on watch for about a day, about half of the time through major snow storms, it was blowing about 40 out of the north and there were snow drifts at each bridge, and the radio station we had on was playing a recording of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds". The lighting just seemed to fit right in!
post #3 of 20
If you think about it Thuderstorms are usually give off the most amount of rainfall. And isn't the conversion from rain to snow something like: For every inch of rain it's three inchs of snow? So if a thundersnow happened (the biggest amount of precipetation would occur) like in a thunderstorm just for every inch of rain it would give off it would be three inchs of snow. So two feet seems like it should be right. I think it's just that thundersnows don't happen often.
post #4 of 20

Reminds me of the weirdest snow related occurance of my life. End of my second year of college, 1993. I was attending the U. of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In March of that year we had the "Storm of the Century." A low from the gulf met a bitter cold front from the northwest. It snowed all the way down to the coast in Mobile. In Tuscaloosa it started snowing mid day but it got really heavy after dark. It was just like a summer thunderstorm except it was cold and snowing. The wind howled. The sky lit up continuously with lightening. Thundersnow was the only way I had to describe it.

We ended up getting about 18" of snow in a narrow line up through Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Gadsden. Some places more. Dad claimed he walked through a drift up to his chest the next morning and he is a big man. Many places lost power for more than a week. It was days before any travel was possible, we do not have the equipment to clear the roads.

I have heard some of the places on up further north really got hammered. I have seen a picture from the storm from near Boone, NC that had nearly 8 feet from it.
post #5 of 20
I remember hearing that an inch of rain is equivalent to ten inches of snow, whihc just makes today in Virginia all the more depressing...
post #6 of 20
Inches of rain to inches of snow. It really depends on the water content of the snow.

A heavy, wet snow might be about 30% in which case an three inches of snow would reduce to about an inch of water.

A dry snow might be around 3% in which case it would take about 33 inches of snow to make an inch of water.
post #7 of 20
Brandon is correct- the reason that the powder is so light here in the west is its low moisture content. Supposedly, the average here in CO is 18" of snow per inch of rain (about 7% moisture content). The big storm that we had here late last spring that caused so much damage was estimated at 6" of snow per inch of rain (and they had nearly 6 feet of snow in 24 hours in a few places! It took one of my colleagues who lives in Evergreen CO 3 days before he could get out. That's a lot of water!
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
any one experience this in this big front ?!?
report it.

bet we get some tonight based on the storm profle
post #9 of 20
NOAA is predicting lightning with the storm. Yet again, they do often.

Happens up in the canyons often, I've seen it twice since living here, never in the valley for me, yet. It's really kinda strange, kinda scary. Last year, or the year before, I was up at Alta during one. Closed everything down quickly, echos around the canyon were downright freaky! I knew a couple of guys that had to take shelter under a rock outcropping cavish feature for a hour or so before they could get off the mountain.
post #10 of 20
beats downloading.

"onetime, in JH, on the bridger gondola..."

oh, the shame.
post #11 of 20
Brandon, I was going to school at ASU in Boone during the SuperStorm of 93. I thought there were explosions going off from how loud the Thundersnow was. The amount of snow was unbelievable for anywhere, but was ungodly for the NC mountains. Must say, after I figured out that it was lightning, it was incredible watching the snowclouds light up. I heard the thunder two years ago during a major storm around Altabird, but never saw the lightning
post #12 of 20
This happened at Snowbasin, one week after the Olympics. Of course, they stopped the lifts.

Reopen 45 minutes later to six inches of fresh on the Grizz. At 2pm!

post #13 of 20
Park City, Utah, 1977. Got to the top about 10 minutes before the gondola shut down. Lightning knocked out power to the whole town. I saw a bolt hit a water tank on the ridge across the main road from the mountain. My friend was stuck twisting in the wind on the gondola and I just waited there at the summit lodge and watched the storm. PMCR eventually got everyone to the top on auxillary power. We got the day off and skied the one lift they had running, on diesel power, in the thunder snow for hours.
post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 
bump up for thunder and lightning snow in UT now.
post #15 of 20
I experienced thunder and lightning in a snow storm. It was at Seven Springs, I would say it was 1990 or so. Craziest weather we ever skied in. I will never forget it.
post #16 of 20
I've lived in either Iowa or Minnesota my whole life and have experienced thundersnow a hanful of times. The scariest event was at A-Basin in Colorado in the late June the year they had the record amount of snow (1997 or something).

Riding the lift to the top a bolt shot across the sky and slammed into the mountain that flanks the ski area (skiers right above the chutes). Wow! I was so scared. Jumped off the chair and tucked all the way to the bottom. They closed the top lift for a while until the storm passed.

post #17 of 20
Thundersnow happens in the biggest of big noreasters...

post #18 of 20
We had a lot of lightning and thunder last night here in California along the west slope of the Sierra. Skiing this morning was epic. I am below the snow line, but it wouldn't surprise me if the thunderstorms made it to the summit and were partly responsible for the 2 feet of fresh this morning. Heavy snow through the day today, but no thunder. Good thing too; they would probably close the lifts under those conditions.
post #19 of 20

More Thundersnow tonight and Tuesday

The current forcast for the Lake Tahoe region includes the following advisory:

Tuesday = big powder day. For all those that were here last week on the ice, "you should have been here this week". BTW, winds on the ridges will be very high resulting in numerous lift closures. Better choose a place like Homewood or Sierra if you want to ski Tuesday.
post #20 of 20
It's happened once for me in SC, where my town got the high amount of snowfall in one day in the history of the town. I think it has to do with very intense systems. Where the cloud tops are very high (usually these produce very heavy rain system along with thunder and lightning)
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