Have you ever been watching a snowstorm when you’ve heard a loud rumble in the sky? Have you ever been out sledding when the snow is coming down hard and thought you heard the sounds of distant thunder? Have you ever wondered why you might hear thunder during a snowstorm?
We are all familiar with thunderstorms. When it rains in the spring, you often hear thunder in the distance scaring young children and pets. This event is connected to expanding warm air in the clouds. It is associated with lightening and usually happens during thunderstorms in the spring or early summer. Thunder is most common during warm weather rainstorms. But have you ever heard thunder during a snowstorm?
It is rare to experience a snowstorm with thunder, but it happens. It happens when there is a layering of cold air and warm air on the ground that moves upward to warmer air. This creates an instability that makes positive and negative charges inside the clouds. When they combine, the air expands and contracts creating the thunder.
Thunder snow, as it’s called, usually happens during a very heavy snowstorm when snow is heavy and thick. At least six inches of snow will typically fall during this unique weather event. It typically occurs during a late spring snow when the air is beginning to change.
One difference between thunder during a snowstorm and thunder during a rainstorm is that snow thunder can sometimes only be heard about a mile away. Thunder from a rainstorm can often be heard for many miles. This helps to make snow thunder more rare because it’s harder to hear. The sounds of thunder are muffled by the snow and do not carry the way they do during a rainstorm.
You usually cannot see any lightening during thunder snow, but occasionally there will be a bright flash of light in the sky followed by the telltale thunder. The snow does not allow for the sight of actual lightening bolts, although there is lightening behind the weather curtain.
The next time your area is expecting a major snowfall, check out the weather conditions to see if you might be able to hear the snow thunder. This unique and exciting weather event is fun for children especially. So take your kids out for some winter fun during a heavy snowstorm. As you are bundled up making your snowmen and sledding down snow covered hills, you might just hear the sounds of thunder in the sky.