Clashing thunder and bursts of lightning created an eerie scene over the colossal snowfall in the Buffalo area Wednesday night, as residents captured the weather phenomenon known as thundersnow.
The combined factors of lake-effect snow and the early timing of such a powerful storm generated the booming event.
According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson, thundersnow is "basically a wintertime thunderstorm."
Sparked by unstable conditions, the thundersnow was a result of the nearly 30 degree F difference between the air temperature and Lake Erie water temperatures. The drastic difference creates instability within the atmosphere and prompts thunder and lightning to erupt across the sky as snow falls.
Since the winterlike storm hit before Lake Erie water temperatures plummeted to winterlike normals, thundersnow was able to develop. When winter unfolds, the chances of thundersnow fall due to the more congruent air and water temperatures.
Due to the geographical placement of the Buffalo area and its proximity to Lake Erie, it is not uncommon for thundersnow to occur, according to Anderson.
However, sightings may have been localized as the mountains of snow hindered the ability for a widespread area to hear the thunder.
"You have to be pretty close to the lightning to be able to hear the thunder since the snow absorbs the sound," Anderson said. "It can also be hard to see the lightning with the snow falling."
He explained that the lightning in such events usually stays in the clouds and onlookers are more likely to see bright flashes instead of individual strikes.