SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — While the topic of thunderstorms is generally discussed in the summer months, the subject is not the soul purview of the hot side of the year.
Now to be clear, winter thunder is not a super common experience, but it is seen in KELOLAND, according to meteorologist Adam Rutt, who explained the phenomena.
“This is when warm air by winter standards gets drawn into the system,” Rutt said. “Just like with their summertime cousins, the warmer air runs over cold air and destabilizes the storm, which allows some convection to occur, though not to the same extent as a summertime storm. Ice crystals impact one another, and charges are separated as a result.”
One thing Rutt noted about these winter thunderstorms, they’re often shorter than their summer counterparts, not necessarily in duration, but in height. “Unlike supercells, which have their cloud tops climb tens of thousands of feet into the atmosphere, cloud tops in a thundersnow event are typically a fraction of [that].”
Rutt also talked about the differences in acoustics.
“In a summertime storm, thunderclaps are sharp and not all that long-lasting due to the lack of insulation that rain provides,” explained Rutt. “In a snowstorm, however, that’s different. Snow has far more of a muffling effect on soundwaves. Though the roar of thunder typically isn’t as crisp, it lingers and resonates for far longer since the sound can’t disperse as quickly.”
Regardless of the differences, Rutt had one important note: “Don’t think that thundersnow is safer than a thunderstorm just because the lightning isn’t as frequent. The same rule applies here as they do any other time: When thunder roars, head indoors.”