The Science Of Blizzards & Snowstorms – They Aren’t The Same!

Blizzards and Snowstorms are two terms that are often used interchangeably. But are they two sides of the same coin or is there a difference?

Here’s an all-you-need to know guide defining the science behind blizzards and snowstorms. But before we get into it, it’s important to understand the mechanism that leads to the formation of a storm system.

A storm system is created when cold air descends from the North and collides with the warmer air from the South. This could result in snow, high winds and reduced visibility. A storm system may go on to produce a Blizzard or a Snowstorm – two completely different weather patterns, you’ll see. Not all snowstorms are blizzards and vice-versa.

A storm system is created when cold air descends from the North and collides with the warmer air from the South. This could result in snow, high winds and reduced visibility. A storm system may go on to produce a Blizzard or a Snowstorm – two completely different weather patterns, you’ll see. Not all snowstorms are blizzards and vice-versa.

A snowstorm, as the term suggests, is a storm that induces a large amount of snowfall. For instance, if you happen to notice more than two inches of snowfall over a short period of time, you are amidst a snowstorm. However, snow doesn’t constitute a blizzard. Blizzards may occur without any snowfall. The major differentiating factor between the two phenomenon is the wind.

A snowstorm is accompanied by little to no wind and the visibility is usually unaffected. It’s still difficult to drive through a snowstorm though. Blizzards feature winds of minimum 35 miles per hour. This infallible presence of wind creates blowing or drifting of snow, reducing visibility to 400 meters, approximately resulting in a whiteout. A whiteout is a scientific phenomenon of sunlight being reflected in all directions by snow or ice. Snowflakes, droplets of fog and ice particles suspended in the air enhance the effect of a whiteout to such a great extent that all sense of direction, perception of depth and balance is lost. There’s no horizon as the limits of sky and land appear fused together. If any of the aforementioned factors are missing, it’s most likely a snowstorm that you are encountering.

Naturally, we encounter differences in the consequences of the two weather patterns – Blizzards disrupt life by means of lessened productivity and sometimes even cause loss of lives due to poor visibility.

Snowstorms on the other hand wreak havoc in the affected areas by bringing forth fatal health conditions like Hypothermia and infections due to frost bites etc. Road accidents increase due to slippery roads, power outages and disruption of communication could ensue. Flying during snowstorms is a complete no-no as passing through a cold cloud could lead to the formation of rime on the wings of an aircraft.

So now you know, how two closely related weather patterns could in fact behave completely differently if you look closer. Let us know about the different weather phenomenon that incite your curiosity and we promise to debunk all myths around them. Happy weather to you!

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