What is Thundersnow? The rare winter storm condition explained

Edinburgh received a rude awakening in the early hours of this morning, after what many claim was a rare case of “thundersnow”.

Plenty of residents took to social media shortly after 4.40am to record the two loud cracks, believed to be caused by thundersnow.

A rare combination of wintry conditions can cause the unusual phenomenon, which is brighter, but quieter than usual thunder and lightning strikes.

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So, what exactly is thundersnow, and what causes it?

Thundersnow explained.
Thundersnow explained.

What is thundersnow?

Thundersnow occurs when the air closest to the ground is warm enough to rise and form a thunderstorm, but still cool enough that it’s able to freeze into snow.

According to the Met Office, thundersnow is formed when thunderstorms “give rise to heavy downpours of snow” in wintry conditions.

“This, along with the usual thunder and lightning, is called 'thundersnow',” it added.

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Edinburgh awoken by thunder and lightening in early hours

Why is thundersnow so bright?

“Thundersnow is unusual only because it can only occur in a few months of the year,” the Met Office explained.

The lightning can bounce between the flakes of snow.

“When thundersnow occurs at night the lightning appears brighter - this is because the light reflects off the snowflakes.”

Why is thundersnow quieter than thunder?

The snow contained within the thunderstorm acts to dampen the sound of the thunder during a thundersnow event.

According to the Met Office, while the thunder from a typical thunderstorm might be heard many miles away, the thunder during a thundersnow event “will only be heard if you are within 2 to 3 miles of the lightning.”

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