What is thundersnow? Why snowstorms produce lightning

During some of the strongest winter storms, don't be surprised if you hear a flash of light and roar from above.

Winter weather that impacts public safety and transportation -- such as snow, sleet, ice -- typically occurs between Oct. 14 and April 14, the National Weather Service says, and meteorologists' alerts before storms inform the public of any danger.

In some of the strongest winter storms, what's known as "thundersnow" can be reported by those on the ground.

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According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, while thunderstorms are less common in the winter, sometimes lightning can occur within snowstorms.

"Thundersnow can be found where there is relatively strong instability and abundant moisture above the surface, such as above a warm front," the NSSL states. "Thundersnow is sometimes observed downstream of the Great Salt Lake and the Great Lakes during lake-effect snowstorms, too."

During a powerful nor'easter in March 2018 that slammed the Northeast with snow rates of 2 or 3 inches an hour, thundersnow was reported as the storm made its way up the coast.

The NWS said at the time that a thunderstorm is typically associated with high snowfall rates.

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The NWS also shared an infographic about thundersnow works.

“Shallow layers of unstable air lead to enhanced upward motion, increasing snow growth and causing enough electric charge separation for lightning,” it explained.

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When thundersnow happens, it's similar to a thunderstorm as those on the ground see a flash of light followed by a loud roar.

Here are some other examples of the rare phenomenon: