Dear Tom,

I have heard three different terms that describe snowfall: snow showers, snow flurries and snow squalls. Could you explain them?

Ron Plumm, Chicago

Dear Ron,

The difference between snow flurries, snow showers and snow squalls in mainly their intensities. All three are convective, that is they are produced by clouds that develop when rising currents of relatively warm air become saturated. In the warm environments of the summer these processes lead to showers and thunderstorms, but in the colder conditions of winter they produce snow. By nature, such precipitation falls in intermittent bursts.

Such showery precipitation in characterized by sudden onset, rapid change in intensity, short duration and quick cessation. Snow flurries produce little or no accumulation and snowfall is generally not measurable. Snow showers are more vigorous and can result in significant accumulations. Snow squalls are especially intense and accompanied by gusty winds that must attain at least 18 mph for at least two minutes.