Thundersnow

We’ve heard plenty about thunder and lightning occurring during an ordinary thunderstorm, but did you know that it’s also possible to have thunder and lightning during a snowstorm? This phenomenon is commonly known as thundersnow. According to an article published by National Geographic in 2009, thundersnow is caused by an unstable air mass which is cold enough to produce wintery precipitation. The occurrence of thundersnow is also linked to heavier snowfall rates within powerful blizzards or heavy snow squalls.

The occurrence of thundersnow is relatively rare, proving to be the most common in strong squalls of snow. The amount of energy and atmospheric instability needed to create such an event is usually uncommon during the winter months due to cooler temperatures. However, with a strong burst of cold air that meets warmer air, it creates a typical “thunderstorm-like” environment that is favorable for lightning and thunder.

For further reading on the science behind the occurrence of thundersnow, here are some other studies that have investigated the topic:

Climatology of Thundersnow Events over the Contiguous United States

An Overview of Thundersnow

A Review of Thundersnow Events across the United States

Although the occurrence of thundersnow is rare, there are areas that have better chances of experiencing such events. Portions of the northern Midwest and Great Lakes regions have statistically seen more confirmed thundersnow events. However, thundersnow can occur anywhere, as long as the atmospheric dynamics are present.

So what exactly does a thundersnow event look and sound like? Well, it’s basically like a thunderstorm while it’s snowing. Usually, instead of seeing a bolt of lightning, the sky is illuminated by a flash. Not long after the flash of lightning, the thunder roars. An interesting fact also discussed in the above research is that the snow acts as a sound suppressor. Unlike being able to hear thunder from many miles away, the thunder that occurs in a thundersnow event is fairly localized.

I will leave you now with some examples of recent thundersnow events. Some of my favorite clips involve The Weather Channel Meteorologist Jim Cantore. Jim has had some major luck when it comes to having thundersnow interrupt his live and recorded broadcasts, and his reactions are priceless.

Jim Cantore; Harrisburg, PA; “Snowtober” 2011
Ginger Zee; Topeka, KS; 2-21-13
Jim Cantore; Worcester, MA; 12-7-96

Jim Cantore; Chicago, IL; 2-2-11 (best Cantore reaction!)

Kyle B. Swartz; Chicago IL; 2-2-11

On a personal note, I am asking of my followers and viewers to participate and share my survey regarding the use of social media to disperse vital news, weather, and emergency information. This survey is part of my research project for an honors contract at my college and I am hoping to collect at least 500 responses. The survey is a quick ten questions and should only take about two to three minutes. Thank you in advance!
Link to survey: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1hJ2SNBwvh_jPXQjJC2skbdhNXD5nTwr_xsG3CuPSm2I/viewform

Radar Review: SimuAWIPS

As a weather enthusiast, trained Skywarn storm spotter, and a meteorology student, I need a radar system to satisfy my needs of monitoring the weather. For this review, I would like to focus on the SimuAWIPS meteorological workstation. SimuAWIPS, known as “Simmy” in my household, is one of the best radar systems I’ve come across. SimuAWIPS is a FREE, donation-run, meteorological workstation that satisfies the basic needs of a radar system. I’ll go into further detail on the many tools that are within SimuAWIPS, including my personal favorites, later on in this post.

I came across SimuAWIPS in January of 2012 while searching for a decent radar system. I had been using Intellicast, but due to that system’s constant bugs while going through updates, I needed something more reliable. I first found the Gibson Ridge (GR) radar software, but I knew I couldn’t afford to drop $80-$250 on radar software. After spending a bit of time practically drooling over GR2Analyst, I pressed on in my search. Not long afterwards, I came across SimuAWIPS, and our geek-relationship was born.

SimuAWIPS requires users to make an account, however, this is for personalization purposes only (once again, SimuAWIPS is funded through donations). At first, all the settings and options can be very overwhelming, and it’s not the most user-friendly to brand new users. Once you get past all the setup and basic personalization for your closest weather station and get some time to play with the settings, it will become much easier to use. I’ve had my SimuAWIPS account since January 11th, 2012; even though I’m still a fairly new user, I’ve played around enough to know most of the workings of the system. If you have any questions regarding the setup or settings of your account, leave a comment regarding your question (please be specific, I cannot read minds) and I’ll try to help you out as soon as possible!

SimuAWIPS is Nexrad-radar fed and has layers that include watches, warnings, mesoscale discussions, base velocity, base reflectivity (main radar), satellite (visible, infrared, and water vapor), models, analysis, observations, dew points, frontal positions, convective outlooks, and more. Loops can be set from a 1hr to 24hr frame (although the 3hr and 1hr loops are much easier to load). Multiple radars and layers can be added on easily-accessible tabs, and local radars specific to your area can be added to a quick drop-down list. However, one of my favorite features is the personalized warning system, which can be set to receive specific products from chosen NWS offices. Whenever a product is issued, an alarm is set off, making SimuAWIPS your personal weather radio.

Now that you’ve heard all about the amazing features SimuAWIPS has to offer, I’ll do a quick walk-through of setting up your own account. Once you’ve arrived at the SimuAWIPS website, begin by clicking on the “Register” button on the toolbar of the page. This will direct you to another page that asks you to create a unique user name, and fill out a form that asks for your name, valid email address, a password for the account, and a secret question with an answer in the event you forget your login information. Fill out the spam verification field at the bottom of this page, then click “Next” to continue. Afterwards, you will be sent an email to activate the account (do NOT give an old email address for this reason and make sure to check your spam filters). You may be asked to select a default NWS office (choose the office that serves your area) or a zip code. This will customize the console to your local NWS office. You can add more NWS offices (I recommend your surrounding NWS offices) by going into the user options menu under the “Offices” and “Radar” tabs. In that same menu, you can choose specific products you wish to receive, set a default panel layout, set a default region and map background (I prefer black), set default loop settings, and choose alarm settings.

Yes, it may be very confusing at first, but if you play around on your console, you will learn how to use SimuAWIPS in ways that are helpful to you. As stated earlier, if you have any questions regarding SimuAWIPS, please leave a comment (be specific about the question) below this post. If you have any suggestions for other online weather sites you want me to review, you can also leave those in the comments section. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post and take the time to explore SimuAWIPS!

A Girl and Her Radar

Hello, fellow bloggers and internet dwellers, I’m Shae. If you haven’t figured out the theme for this blog yet, it’ll become mighty evident throughout this first blog post. I am currently a sophomore in college working on my Associates degree (this blog is actually meant to be an assignment for one of my classes) and planning to eventually transfer to a four-year university for a Bachelor of Science degree in Atmospheric Science/Meteorology. I wish to specialize in convective meteorology (derechos, tornadoes, and hail, oh my!) and eventually end up in Norman, Oklahoma for my career.

As for the back-story of my passion for meteorology, I must first thank my mother for sparking the interest in the field. I’ve been interested in meteorology since Hurricane Floyd developed and moved up the East Coast. It was September of 1999 and it was my mother’s first year of homeschooling me (I was about five at the time). My mother had the idea of creating a very easy science project by printing out maps of the East Coast and having me sketch Floyd’s track onto the printings. Little did she know at the time, by having me stationed in front of our television watching Jim Cantore get blown around, she created a “little monster” who would clamor for anything weather-related.

Growing up, I was TERRIFIED of thunderstorms (ironic, isn’t it?) I would refuse to go to bed if it was forecasted to storm at night and The Weather Channel was always on in our house. Due to my fear of thunderstorms, I learned how to read radar images and figure out how much time it would take a storm to get near my house by considering the movement of the storm(s) within the radar frames. This, plus hours upon hours of personal research (because I WANTED to) on convective weather has placed me where I am today.

This is about it for an introductory post. Just to clarify, this blog is going to be focused more on issues than forecasts.  If you have a really cool idea for a blog post you want to see from me (please keep it weather-based), need clarification on some big word, or just have a general question or some feedback, just leave me a comment! Don’t forget to follow me as I embark on this blogging journey ☺