Blizzards are impressive weather phenomena that can cover vast regions under a blanket of snow, but unlike typical thunderstorms, they rarely produce lightning and thunder.

Why does this happen?

The answer lies in the complexity of the atmospheric processes that generate these events.

  • Cold temperatures: In a snowstorm, temperatures are usually very cold, below freezing. Unlike thunderstorms, which form in warmer conditions, the cold temperatures in a blizzard do not encourage the buildup of electrical charge in clouds.
  • Lack of convection: Thunderstorms are fueled by a process called convection, where warm air rises and cold air descends, generating friction and the accumulation of electrical charges in the clouds. In a snowstorm, the atmosphere is typically more stable, with limited vertical air movement, making lightning formation difficult.
  • Snow and hail: Instead of raindrops, snowstorms are made up of ice crystals and sometimes hail. These particles are less efficient at generating electrical charge compared to raindrops, which decreases the likelihood of lightning.
  • Less humidity: Thunderstorms usually contain a large amount of moisture in the atmosphere, making it easier for lightning to form. In contrast, snowstorms can be less wet, reducing the chance that enough electrical energy will build up in the clouds.

Snowstorms are a different meteorological phenomenon than thunderstorms, due to the cold temperatures, lack of convection, particle composition, and lower humidity in the atmosphere. This explains why they do not usually produce lightning or thunder.

Although fascinating for their own reasons, the light and sound shows characteristic of thunderstorms are rarely found in the middle of a snowstorm.