Which is colder, an ice storm or a snowstorm?

Weather Blog

Dear Tom,
Which is colder, an ice storm or a snowstorm?

Janie Long, Chicago

Dear Janie,
In general, snowstorms are colder than ice storms. An ice storm is characterized by a fall of freezing rain and the resultant accumulation of glaze on the ground and on exposed objects. Freezing rain falls in liquid form just like regular rain, but it freezes on impact to form a coating of ice on objects it strikes. The occurrence of freezing rain requires that air temperatures at the level of the clouds in which the rain is forming must be above freezing (32 degrees), even though ground-level readings are at or below freezing. Snow forms in clouds in an entirely below-freezing environment. Temperatures may be a little above freezing at the ground when it’s snowing, but snow always originates in sub-freezing air aloft.


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