LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Thunder is a common occurrence in the summer, but on rare occasions, it can come with intense bursts of snow in the winter.
Thundersnow is sometimes observed in lake-effect systems, which is pertinent to residents of Michigan and Buffalo, New York, for example.
Thundersnow can be seen off of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario — the two shallowest of the Great Lakes — but the conditions have to be right.
First, there must be cold air from a lake-effect system blowing across the body of water. If this happens at the right angle, that air can travel up to 240 miles before reaching land, and the longer that system is over the water, the stronger it gets.
The warm air that exists over the lake is lifted up into the atmosphere, around 15,000 to 20,000 feet into a storm cloud. Then, the heat is sometimes able to separate the positive and negative charges that exist within a storm cloud, which creates thundersnow.
During a thundersnow event, lightning flashes and thunder may be harder to see and hear, because thundersnow typically comes with intense snowfall. But experts warn that, while rarer, these storms are just as dangerous as a summertime thunderstorm.