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Thunder and lightning lead to heavier snow, study finds

Weather Observations

Jan 05, 2007

Snow accumulations of 6 inches or more are almost guaranteed when a snowstorm is accompanied by flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder, according to an analysis of 30 years' worth of Midwest storms. Although it's known that at any given moment there are 2,000 thunderstorms occurring around the globe, the combination of warm moist air being forced upward into cold regions to condense, freeze and stay frozen as snow and ice as it comes down is thought to be PRETTY RARE. Reports of the phenomenon are most common in Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma and northern Texas. And many people may have been in a thundersnow storm and not realized it, since the snow muffles the sound of thunder and obscures the lightning down to a few miles, producing a much smaller signature than summer squalls. Official weather records recorded only about 375 thundersnow events in the United States between 1961 and 1990. Six or more inches of snow fell in 86 percent of the storms and almost half of the storms led to 10 or more inches.

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