There’s a natural phenomenon known as “thundersnow”, which happens when thunderstorms form in wintry conditions, giving rise to heavy downpours of snow, thunder and lightning.


When thunderstorms form in wintry conditions they can sometimes give rise to heavy downpours of snow which are often called ‘thundersnow’.

Thundersnow is unusual only because it can only occur in a few months of the year.

What does thundersnow look like?

When thundersnow occurs at night the lightning appears brighter – this is because the light reflects off the snowflakes.

Interestingly, the snow contained within the thunderstorm acts to dampen the sound of the thunder. While the thunder from a typical thunderstorm might be heard many miles away, the thunder during a thundersnow event will only be heard if you are within 2 to 3 miles of the lightning.

7 thoughts on “There’s a natural phenomenon known as “thundersnow”, which happens when thunderstorms form in wintry conditions, giving rise to heavy downpours of snow, thunder and lightning.”

  1. AndrewRP2

    Happened in Chicago a few years ago. The weatherman was reporting outside when it happened and he nerded out for a sec.

  2. thisISme4now

    It’s amazing to experience

  3. waterfalljay

    It’s really confusing the first time you encounter it.

  4. crazydr13

    Atmospheric scientist here.

    Thundersnow is freaking awesome but relatively rare in most places. Thundersnow is technically defined as a “winter thunderstorm” where a cumulonimbus forms in colder temps than usual. Thundersnow is quite rare because of how these storms are formed.

    A cumulonimbus is a giant tower of cloud that forms around a convective core fueled by warm air rising. As you can probably imagine, the atmosphere in winter is generally much cooler and is prone to fewer instabilities that would lead to the genesis of cumuliforms like a cumulonimbus. BUT, if a cold front rolls through that is much colder (and denser) than the surrounding air, it can cause lift which starts a convective core. The rising air is warmer relative to the surrounding atmosphere and rises this way. As it rises, it will cool slower than the surrounding air, allowing it to rise faster, which then continues the cycle. This convective core moves a massive amount of air and causes a huge amount of particles to hit each other. These collisions begin to create a static charge between the earth and the cloud. When it reaches a sufficient level, the cloud will discharge, creating thunder and lightning.

    While the rising air is warmer than the air around it, it will start to cool gradually. As it cools, it reaches dew point, then begins to precipitate, but since the air is much cooler than usual, the precipitation falls out as snow creating thundersnow!

    There’s that famous video of Jim Cantore getting HYPE about thundersnow and that sentiment is pretty ubiquitous throughout the atmospheric science community.

    Edit: I can’t spell apparently. Hit me up with any atmosphere, weather, or climate questions!

  5. duluthzenithcity

    I grew up I northern MN and this was commonplace, but beautiful every single time

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