THUNDER SNOW? -- John Fonville (originally from Greensboro, NC but now in the Poconos of northeastern PA) contacted us with following question: "Why does it not lightning when there is a snow storm or blizzard? If this does happen, I have never experienced it. Just curious."
Thunderstorms usually require warm, humid air near the ground (where we hang out) to form. Warm air rises, cools, the moisture in the air condenses, and this can lead to the development of thunderstorms.
Obviously in a winter storm / blizzard that is not the case.
However, the air near the ground can be "relatively" warm compared to the air at high altitudes. In this case, thunderstorms (usually relatively weak and short-lived) can develop. And, under some circumstances, many such storms can develop.
The phenomenon is most often observed in the Midwest (places like Kansas, Illinois, and Iowa), but can even occur along the East Coast. A few year's back, Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel was covering a snowstorm in New England when lightning flashed behind him. When I grew up on Long Island (late 50's and early 60's), I remember seeing a lightning flash or two during a snowstorm and being really surprised about it.
Stay in the Poconos long enough and you'll get a snowstorm thunderstorm.
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