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Ground Blizzard: What Is One & Who Is Going To See One?

15 Jan 2014, 10:45 am

It sounds odd.  A ground blizzard?  When you picture a blizzard, you probably picture a scene like this:



That was blizzard footage I shot while storm chasing for the CBS affiliate in eastern Iowa, winter of 2011.  What you see here is quite a bit of snow (16″ fell in spots), along with VERY intense winds.

You don’t always need that for a blizzard to take place, however.  The American Meteorological Society (AMS) and National Weather Service (NWS) define a blizzard as: “a wind of 30 knots (35 miles per hour) or greater, sufficient snow in the air to reduce visibility to less than 400 m (0.25 miles)”

Notice that nowhere in that definition comes mentions of the quantity of snow per hour, storm total snow, etc.  It’s strictly wind and some form of snow.  Enter: ground blizzard.  I was driving home from work while living in Casper, Wyoming (my first television job) one day, in full sunshine immediately after snow had fallen.  A giant wind gust came and created a blinding sea of BRIGHT white around me – enough to actually frighten me.  That was a ground blizzard.

Here are the ingredients in play for this ground blizzard event (there will be a small amount of additional light snow, too, so it’s not purely a ground blizzard):







So… you have 25-35mph sustained winds (gusting higher) as per the model map, and you have at least 1-2 inches of snow, if not 3-4+… and it’s fluffy/”dry” snow.

That is why we have blizzard conditions expected over where those maps overlap.



Stay tuned to WeatherNation the next 24 hours to see what comes of this windy & snowy situation!

WeatherNation Meteorologist Aaron Shaffer @ashafferWNTV

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