Monthly Archives: January 2011

“Thundersnow” Debunked

The most recent snowstorm of Wednesday evening into Thursday morning that blanketed the Pascack Valley area packed a serious punch… and that punch was clearly visible and even audible.

Along with the 10 inches of snow, a rare and little-known phenomenon known as “thundersnow” rumbled over parts of the Pascack Valley.

The Pascack Valley area experienced "thundersnow" during the Jan. 26-Jan. 27 snowstorm.

According to National Geographic News, thundersnow—when thunder and lighting occur during a snowstorm—most often appears in late winter or early spring.

Thundersnow works similarly to a summer thunderstorm – the sun heats the ground and pushes masses of warm, moist air upward, creating unstable air columns. As the columns rise, the moisture condenses to form clouds. The element that makes thundersnow so rare is that the atmospheric instability that needs to be present is typically not present in the wintertime.

According to National Geographic News, thundersnow only occurs when “the air layer closer to the ground is warmer than the layers above, but still cold enough to create snow – a very precise circumstance.”

Residents of the Pascack Valley are no stranger to the rare phenomenon after last night/this morning’s rapid snowfall rates. In fact, experts agree that rapid snowfall rate, more than two inches an hour, is connected to thundersnow.

Did you hear the rumble yet miss the lightning bolt? That’s expected, according to scientists. During thundersnow, the sky simply gets bright (with no visible lightning bolt present) and moments later a rumble of thunder is heard.

Did you witness the thundersnow and have similar views to Stephen Colbert’s? Post your stories/comment below!


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