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John Wheeler, WDAY, Published April 04 2014

Weather Talk: Monday’s blizzard brought thunder and lightning

Last Monday’s blizzard brought with it a remarkable amount of thunder and lightning. Lightning during snow is not unusual in the sense that in happens somewhere around our region every year or two. But in my almost 29 years in Fargo-Moorhead, I have witnessed it personally only three or four times.

Lightning is a big spark that is released after a buildup of static charge, which is caused by mixed rain and ice crystals bumping into each other thousands of feet up in the convective updraft of a thundershower. These conditions are most common in warm season when updrafts are easily created in the humid, unstable air.

But on occasion in winter, there is enough instability for updrafts and convective showers. Because temperatures near the ground are cold, it snows instead of rains at the surface, but the lightning happens anyway. Convective showers often cause locally heavy amounts of precipitation and, likewise, snow showers with thunder often produce very heavy snowfalls.


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