thundersnow

i have a weird goal i want to accomplish this year.....id like to get a good shot of lightning in a blizzard ive only experienced it two times in my life but i think its something that could be incredibly difficult to do and the feeling of doing it and having accomplished it would make me very pleased.....anyone ever do this? maybe its easier than i thought, although i would have to guess where it would strike in the middle of 60 mph winds and probably be frozen to the camera, from my experience there was only like 3 flashes in 2 hours so i dont know maybe im setting an unrealistic goal???

thoughts?
 
I got a good laugh from that! I think you'd be better off learning a foreign language or something, but if you have your heart set on it, here's a suggestion: since the odds of geting a shot from your typical strong winter system are just about zero, you'd be better off with a strong spring or fall system and head for altitude (Pikes Peak comes to mind, since i live near it) In fact, you'd have a MUCH better shot on top of Pikes peak in spring or summer (when in often snows hard) than anywhere at sea level. All you have to do is drive to the top before they close the road. Course, blizzard by definition means low visibility, so all you'll get is an illuminated shot, which may not be too exciting. Unless it's REALLY close, in which case, you may get fried :eek:
 
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Um, there's not really much to photograph here. You don't get very vivid lightning with thundersnow. Actually, chances are you never even see the lightning, just a flash of bright light.
 
The first lake effect snows of the season (October/November) typically are prolific thundersnow producers, due to the instability available from the lakes still being warm. Erie, PA and Buffalo, NY are lake-effect thundersnow hotspots.

I admit this is also a long-running chase goal of mine. I haven't been able to do it yet, as I seem to always have scheduling conflicts when the big lake effect events hit - this year being no exception.
 
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I was in Milwaukee Novemeber 10 this year and we actually had some thundersnow at about 5p. It wasn't as good when I saw it back in '88 but it was something.
It's hard to shoot snow.. camera sensor goes crazy with the reflection of the snowflakes and dark background.
Good luck in your quest!
Laura
 
I've only witnessed this once, and it wasn't much to photograph. November of 2004 we had a strong system bring heavy snow and winds that were sustained around 60 mph. I went out and actually shot video of the strong winds, but missed the couple flashes of lightning. I didn't even hear any thunder, only saw the sky flash a bright pink color.
 
haha thanks for the replies i figured i wouldnt get a clear shot and the few times ive seen it its been very intense like FLASH...CRACK BOOM! so i was like ok i doubt a cloud to cloud strike did that......it is probably very very hard if not impossible to do....on the otherhand if i do get fried it would probably be a good thing considering all that would be left of me is a frozen mass attached to a camera in the middle of nowhere :p oh well thanks for the insight, i just want to try something new and out there that i have never done before
 
Heres a couple thoughts on your agenda. First of all, do you mean a picture when you say good shot, or do you you want to just experience a bout of thundersnow. If your really determined, I've always felt there are three locations/scenarios where your most likely experience it.
1.) Lake Effect, the larger the Delta T's the better off you are, Later October and November storms are your best bet.
2.) Orographic situations, but a fairly potent system is usually necessary as well.
3.)SE NewEngland during strong Nor'Easters.

Choice 3 is there to prove the point that all it really takes are situations with extremely intense snowfall rates(extreme instability) More snowflakes equals more electrostatic induction, and there you go.

This leads to the other part, any situation that will produce thundersnow will also be producing extreme whiteout conditions with snowfall rates of probably 2-5 inches an hour. Therefore, all you really see is an amazing diffuse flash of light. I recently chased the 10/12-10/13 storm in buffalo, and experienced countless lightning and thunder throughtout my whole chase. But the flashes were very unique, they had a somewhat organish hue, which I attribute to intense refraction through trillions of flakes. In Summary, if you want to experience thundersnow, get yourself into a LES band. If you want to film it, I'm not quite sure how you'd achieve that.
 
I'll vouch for all 3 cases Andrew mentioned, and I'm thinking Illinois isn't the best place.

I have experienced Lake Effect thundersnow in Salt Lake City. It's not widely known, but the Great Salt Lake produces significant lake effect storms and it never freezes. Due to the small fetch the snows are never as extreme as the Great Lakes, but orographics come into play.

Right down the road from SLC I have heard thunder while skiing in Alta. Which is not a pleasant experience.

Finally, just last year during the big northeast blizzard we had thundersnow on the CT coast.

All of these cases were during extreme snowfall rates. 4-6 inches per hour.
 
I was working a venue in Mobile, Alabama in March of 1993 when the Superstorm came through with lightning and snow. The event shut down when patrons ran outdoors screaming with delight at the sight of blowing snow.

Roads were closed by snowfall and we were stranded there for several days. Fortunately, our client had a nice guesthouse in back of his home and put us up there. The place had several huge skylights and we sat in darkness and watched frequent green lightning for several hours. Most of it was cloud to cloud, but a cg would come down every so often with accompanying loud thunder.

The color and consistency of the lightning reminded me of that seen in Hurricane David several years earlier; it would flash in a lime green to blue-green tint, then fall away in segments before vanishing.

Even stranger was the behavior of our patrons in Mobile who, seldom seeing snow, were rolling around on the asphalt parking lot, ruining their formalwear and gowns, hollering and throwing snowballs...

When we finally drove home, I-65's median was populated with thousands of snowmen, produced by people who had been stranded in far less comfortable circumstances.

Sadly, none of us had a camera on the trip.
 
yeah it was a shot in the dark i figured it would be near impossible but thanks for the locations and options, we dont get much lake effect here but 35 miles to the east they get pounded almost every year i guess it was something that caught my imagination
 
FYI -

Dr. Patrick Market at the University of Missouri studies snowstorms that produce thunder.

He recently gave a talk at UIUC's Atmospheric Sciences seminar. He is doing a 5-year study of the phenomena.

His homepage is here:
http://www.missouri.edu/~marketp/

It links to his publications and his group's regular winter 3-day forecasts of convective snows - with a nationwide map.

Their forecasts predicts convective snow over a wide area of the midwest for Nov. 30. Nothing for Dec 1.
 
Awesome find!

"Nothing for Dec 1."

You may have passed over the timestamp: 18Z 11/30 - 18Z 12/01.
 
Im glad someone posted this topic. I was watching the weather channel last night when I saw a video of Thundersnow. I gotta say, It was pretty wild and I too questioned whether or not a Lightning Capture was possible. I have lived in Idaho for only 2 years. This is the first place I have lived where it snows and thus far we have not encountered thundersnow. I do believe that if you truly want to capture lightning then you need to go the less quality way which is Video Screen capture. This way you just leave the video on in the direction of the lightning and cross your fingers, the benefit is you wont get a cluttered image of light as you would with 30 second exposures, etc. I doubt the lightning grab would be complete but with just a small bolt somehwere in the picture means you accomplished what you wanted. As far as what I read on this topic, It is near impossible to capture a lightning bolt. It makes sense, since the Occuring snow is falling from a thunderstorm, the snow would be heavy and winds would be blowing. It only makes me want to track down a thundersnow storm and try. Beat the odds, at least thats what most of us aim to do with weather. =)

Great topic. I would like to see some video of a thundersnow event if anyone has any. Im very interested in this phenomena. Thanks...

-gerrit
 
I was hoping to see some thundersnow last night, but didn't get to see it. I think it stayed just a bit east of me, or hit me after I went to bed.

Based on what I saw last night, it would be VERY hard to capture on camera. At least capturing an actual bolt anyway. With thundersnow the visibility is usually so low, you'd have to have a bolt hitting very close by to capture it. Certainly a shot of the sky lit up with snow flying would be cool though.
 
I was at work last night on the 30th and there were several CGs (not to mention additional in-cloud stuff more than likely) over portions of west-central and central Missouri from, say 04z to 07z. Surface temps underneath were 19 degrees. Wow! The potential instability that was being created and released was around the 650-500mb layer or so right at the nose of the tremendous mid level PV anomaly. In the conceptual-model sense, this is about exactly the location in the compact mid-latitude cyclone where the Minneola, KS tornadoes occurred on 26 October. Very interesting stuff for sure.
 
I was at work last night on the 30th and there were several CGs (not to mention additional in-cloud stuff more than likely) over portions of west-central and central Missouri from, say 04z to 07z. Surface temps underneath were 19 degrees. Wow! The potential instability that was being created and released was around the 650-500mb layer or so right at the nose of the tremendous mid level PV anomaly. In the conceptual-model sense, this is about exactly the location in the compact mid-latitude cyclone where the Minneola, KS tornadoes occurred on 26 October. Very interesting stuff for sure.

I was thinking about saving some screenshots of the lightning data... I had it overlayed with the WV loop / 500MB heights / MSLP, and you could see the explosive cyclogenesis and comma head development. Quite a few obs were reporting +SN for several hours, which is pretty rare (I usually see SN with a few isolated +SN during "typical" snowstorms across that area).

I must say, the NAM did an excellent job with forecasting the westward extent of this system (the FSL RUC didn't do too bad either). I'll mark this as win number one for the new WRF-NMM. Hopefully it can prove useful through the winter.
 
Hey Daniel, I hope you were out this past Friday morning! Cause we had thunders snow around here, It was in the early hours of the morning around 6am, its quite a site to see for sure, I wish i had my camera rolling, but alas, I was on my way to work.
 
Does anyone have a map with cumulative strikes for this event available?

This is one event that I wish I had my GEMPAK system running in "real-time" mode. I was running into so many problems building the latest GEMPAK/McIDAS distribution (on Fedora 1), that I didn't get things going until AFTER the event.

However, I did have access to all available lightning data, which I could have easily put on top of other images (satellite and radar). Unfortunately, I was pre-occupied doing the above and didn't even think about saving the data. :mad:
 
TWC Video Clip of Thundersnow!!

Good day all,

I found this little clip of Mr Cantori in Massachusetts nearly getting struck with a thundsersnow bolt (it's later mentioned a car's tires were blown out a few blocks away).

No sound, but interesting expression on Jim's face ;-)

tsnow.gif
 
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