For many people, winter storms mean snow and frigid temperatures. Even still, for a few people it is a mad rush to the grocery store for milk, eggs, bread, and whatever else they feel they need to stock up on. However, do you really know how winter storms form? What characteristics do winter storms have?
There are three basic ingredients to produce a winter storm. First the atmosphere needs cold air. The next essential ingredient to a winter storm is moisture. Lastly, there needs to be lift.
Lift is when a mass of warm air attempts to rise above a cold air mass but as the warm air rises it collides with the cold air and begins to cool. A cloud forms when the water vapor condenses. This can sometimes cause precipitation.
Again, when most people think of winter storms, they think only about the snow or ice. However, winter storms typically have a variety of weather conditions. The most dangerous types of winter storms bring more than just snow. It can be any combination of rain, snow, and ice. This is what can cause dangerous road conditions and bring daily life to a halt.
Different precipitation follows behind different temperatures. The warm side of the storm will produce rain showers and sometimes even thunderstorms. On the boundary between the warm air and cold air of a winter storm typically produces sleet and freezing rain. The cold side of the winter storm is when snow is more likely to form.
Snow Storm vs. Blizzard
Light snow flurries can create a beautiful winter scene for the greeting card industry. Strong snow storms can cause havoc on daily life that brings traffic to a halt and shut down businesses. Furthermore, blizzards cause billions of dollars in damages each year. So what exactly is the difference between snow storm and blizzards?
In short, a snow storm can bring a large amount of snow in a very short period of time. It can be beautiful at first, but quickly it can turn into disaster. Snow storms can also be accompanied by freezing rain and ice. The type of accumulation snow storm generate can be deadly.
Blizzards are like snow storms, only more intensified. Not only can blizzards drop a large amount of snow in a short period of time, but are accompanied by other dangerous weather affects. One affect is winds. A blizzard can have winds in excess of 35 miles per hour. This creates blinding snow, which reduces visibility to less than 1/4 of a mile. This automatically creates dangerous road ways. Blizzards also don’t occur in short spurts like some snow storms. They typically last for at least three hours if not more.
Can it be too cold to snow?
Many people have the belief that it can be too cold to snow. This is not necessarily true. Although rare, it isn't impossible. Again, one of the main basic ingredients to snow is moisture. As long a there is moisture and the right conditions, it can snow regardless of how cold it is. In fact, it doesn’t take much moisture at all to create snow. However, it can be too dry to snow but never to cold to snow. When temperatures plummet below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the atmosphere is typically too stable to snow, but if their is moisture present snowfall has been know to occur.
Knowing the characteristics of winter storms and how they form will help people better prepare for them. Not saying it will help people drive better during winter storms for those still insistent on getting out in them, but it will help people make better decision to safeguard themselves from the affects of winter storms.