BLOG: Winter Thunderstorms - Thundersnow - | WBTV Charlotte

BLOG: Winter Thunderstorms - Thundersnow

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - With winter over and spring here, it's time to prepare for thunderstorms.  But wait, we heard a few reports this past winter about Thundersnow! What exactly is that?  Most of you know it is a term used for a snow shower accompanied by thunder.  But many of you have probably never encountered this and it is rare. 

Here's why:  Thunderstorms require clouds that grow to great heights into the atmosphere which allow them to hit very cold air often times around 50 degrees below zero.  This allows for various ice crystals to form in different parts of the cloud. The other important component is a strong updraft which allows the ice crystals to collide and start the process of transferring electrical charges from one part of the cloud to another.  You can do this to by rubbing a balloon on your hair and sticking it to the ceiling.  These strong updrafts are normally generated by the low-level hot summer air rising rapidly through the cold upper atmosphere.  Since hot air isn't available in the winter, the only way to force air upward like that is to get a very powerful front, or upper level system to physically force the air upward.  Then you have a chance of thunder-snow. 

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