Did You Hear That? Thundersnow Rumbles Through Duluth Wednesday [VIDEO]
The Northland is getting a dose of heavy, wet snow; with Duluth and the North Shore getting pounded by the worst of the storm in the Northland Wednesday and Thursday. This is part of a large system that is impacting a huge part of the country. Seriously, it spans pretty much the entire north-south length of the United States!
This powerful storm is bringing a variety of weather throughout the country, and even quite the assortment right here in the Northland.
Things started off Tuesday night with a mix of rain, sleet, and freezing rain, shifting to snow overnight. Along with the snow, strong winds have been creating blizzard-like conditions in parts of the Northland. Wednesday morning, during some heavier snow, we even got some rumbles and flashes from "thundersnow".
If you thought you heard some rumbles of thunder, or maybe even thought you saw some flashes in the sky Wednesday morning, it wasn't your imagination!
Lighting-sensing technology detected some lighting in an area along the hillside between Downtown Duluth and Enger Tower.
A Duluthian named Mollie actually captured the rumbles of thunder in a video she was shooting to show how much snow had fallen by Wednesday morning. While you can hear what sounds like wind blowing on her phone's microphone at first, you eventually hear the distinct rumble of thunder!
We even ended up getting more thundersnow Thursday morning, as captured by this harbor camera:
What is Thundersnow?
Thundersnow is a pretty rare phenomenon, which is pretty much what it sounds like - a snowy version of a thunderstorm. Yes, that means lighting happens during this type of snowstorm, followed by thunder caused by the lighting.
This is pretty rare because most of the time, there isn't enough of a temperature difference in snowstorms to create the lift necessary for lightning. Storms where there is a convergence of greater temperature differences can create that instability and lift necessary for lightning.
As NOAA explains, thundersnow is only associated with very strong winter storms, like the blizzard we are experiencing in the Northland this week. These particularly strong storms create the right conditions for lighting and thunder.
While what we see on the ground might be different (snow, instead of rain/hail), the science behind thundersnow is pretty similar.
Moisture, instability in the atmosphere, and lift within the storm combine to create giant areas of positive or negative electric charge in the sky. When these charges reach a tipping point, lighting occurs as a way to "balance things out" once again - sort of like when you rub your socks on the carpet to generate static electricity. Lighting super-heats the air around the bolt, leading to the sound we hear, and that's the short version how we get thundersnow.
You heard Mollie comment about heading inside, worried about a lightning strike. While cloud-to-ground lighting from thundersnow is less likely than warmer-weather thunderstorms, she made a smart observation. Anytime you hear thunder, lightning strikes are a possibility, and you should seek shelter indoors for safety.