What is "thundersnow"?

Ask Tom Why

Dear Tom,
Growing up, I don’t ever remember hearing about thundersnow. Is it new?
Jennifer Cline Evanston
Dear Jennifer,
It is not new, but the public has become much more aware of it, a result of the explosion of social media, camera phones and live TV weather coverage. While not common, thundersnow can occur during powerful winter storms. The snowfall can be intense, falling at blinding rates up to 4 inches an hour. Several episodes of thundersnow occurred during Chicago’s 2011 Groundhog Day blizzard. On Dec. 15, 1987, the city was buried by eight inches of snow in just four hours, during a major thundersnow event. Chicago climatologist, Frank Wachowski, found a report of thundersnow on January 30, 1947. Thundersnow can also occur during lake-effect snow episodes, when arctic air passes over the warmer waters of the Great Lakes.


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