Thundersnow: How it formed during Wednesday's Nor'Easter

Thundersnow seems to be one of the catch words in modern day weather. For some of us, it's become somewhat of a bucket list item too!

Some folks in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut could check that item off, though, after Wednesday's powerful Nor'Easter (the same system that's partially responsible for our scattered snow showers the last two days).

Through using modern apps, like RadarScope, we can detect the lightning that was observed Wednesday evening just outside of Philly!

Wait just a minute...don't we usually see thunderstorms in the summer? Correct! Thunderstorms are more easily formed when it's warm, and when there's more moisture in the atmosphere. So how do they form in the winter?

Let's explain.

Around a strong area of low pressure, like Wednesday's Nor'Easter, the air is rising pretty violently. This is how precipitation gets started.

As the air is rising, it is cooling the air in the mid levels of the atmosphere. What this does is creates 'instability,' which is just a fancy way of saying fuel for thunderstorms.

With this happening right around the low pressure system, that eventually built the clouds to an explosive point in which lightning and thunder were triggered near the Tri-State region.

You can see this process play out really well in the satellite loop below. What this shows is the clouds billowing up as air is rising around the storm's center.

Through using lightning mapping data in the new GOES-16 satellite, along with human observation, we could confirm that thundersnow was indeed happening around this storm's very powerful center.

Behind this system, we are still dodging scattered snow showers on Thursday. A weather system that moves in this weekend could once again turn into a Nor'Easter - the third one in just two weeks.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off