All hail “thundersnow,” one of Mother Nature’s most bizarre mashups!
Thundersnow — a thunderstorm that produces snow instead of rain — was reported Wednesday in New York City from the powerful nor’easter lashing the Northeast. It also rattled portions of eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.
The thundersnow spurred plenty of excitement on social media:
We just had a huge burst of lightning, and loud thunder crash over Central Park in #NYC. Incredible! @weatherchannel is turning around video. We were rolling at the time! #thundersnow
— Justin Michaels (@JMichaelsNews) March 7, 2018
Turn up the sound. Thundersnow is being reported all around New York City.
Follow live updates: https://t.co/4wrFUhsVcypic.twitter.com/icFYE9kL3y
— CNN Weather Center (@CNNweather) March 7, 2018
— Jim Cantore (@JimCantore) March 7, 2018
Astonished at amount of lightning strikes in S NJ and SE PA as this storm “bombs out” off the coast. Really impressive. Also, the heavy snow band sitting just west of nyc could produce some jackpot totals there. pic.twitter.com/tenoZPPA9a
— Andrew Freedman (@afreedma) March 7, 2018
– We Have #THUNDERSNOW in #Queens a few miles from Downtown #NYC – Eat your heart out @JimCantore Excuse the reaction from @LIWeatherGuy he was a little excited… @nynjpaweather@NEWeatherWx@StormHour@crankywxguy@theWeatherboy@tristateweather@hoffmanrich@_NEweather@spannpic.twitter.com/usKW4MIP8A
— WeatherGoingWILD (@WeatherGoinWILD) March 7, 2018
It is snowing like crazy in Brooklyn, but I just saw several bolts of lighting then loud bouts of thunder.
Don’t know that I’ve ever seen that.
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) March 7, 2018
Convection — upward motion of air — helps produce thunderstorms. But it’s fairly rare to have convection within a winter storm. Thunder and lightning are much more common in warm-season thunderstorms, according to meteorologist Jeff Haby.
But when there’s strong enough convection, along with plenty of moisture available, a winter storm can produce thundersnow.
Thundersnow is typically associated with heavy rates of snow, which can lead to reduced visibility. And while the snow sometimes muffles the thunder, the lightning can still be seen.
One of the more well-known instances of thundersnow occurred in 2011 in Chicago and involved Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore.
Thundersnow is sometimes also seen downstream of the Great Salt Lake and the Great Lakes during lake-effect snowstorms, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory.