PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Ahead of the potentially historic snowstorm headed our way, there is the potential for thundersnow.
Simply put, thundersnow is when thunder and lightning occur during a snowstorm. It is essentially a thunderstorm without the rain, and can occur in the winter.
Contrary to what many people believe, it does not necessarily have to be warm to get thunder and lightning.
Meteorologist Pete Mangione says, if a snowstorm is strong enough, powerful upward motion can create collisions between ice crystals and snowflakes.
The collisions can cause charge separation — lightning and then thunder occurs as Mother Nature tries to balance the charge. This rare occurrence is usually only associated with a powerful storm.
Meteorologist Pete Mangione says, if there is enough moisture, the upward motions produces numerous and huge snowflakes.
When thundersnow occurs at night, the lightning appears brighter because it reflects off the snowflakes.
The snowfall actually muffles the thunder, which can only be heard less than three miles away. Whereas thunderstorms can be heard in the summer between 10-15 miles away.