Ask Josh: Blizzards

Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick is talking blizzards!


Satellite View Of The 1993 Blizzard
 
Winter is trying to make a come back after the recent warm spell and severe weather.  A blizzard is NOT in the forecast anytime soon but do you know what makes a blizzard a blizzard?

Ben send me a question asking: "Hey Josh, How much wind and snow is required for a winter storm to be considered a blizzard?  Thanks!"


As we know blizzards are dangerous winter storms that are a combination of blowing snow and wind resulting in very low visibilities. While heavy snowfalls and severe cold often accompany blizzards, they are not required. Sometimes strong winds pick up snow that has already fallen, creating a ground blizzard.

Officially, the National Weather Service defines a blizzard as a storm which contains large amounts of snow OR blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least 3 hours). When these conditions are expected, the National Weather Service will issue a "Blizzard Warning". When these conditions are not expected to occur simultaneously, but one or two of these conditions are expected, a "Winter Storm Warning" or "Heavy Snow Warning" may be issued.

Blizzard conditions often develop on the northwest side of an intense storm system. The difference between the lower pressure in the storm and the higher pressure to the west creates a tight pressure gradient, or difference in pressure between two locations, which in turn results in very strong winds. These strong winds pick up available snow from the ground, or blow any snow which is falling, creating very low visibilities and the potential for significant drifting of snow.

In the 1870's, an Iowa newspaper used the word "blizzard" to describe a snowstorm. Previously, the term blizzard referred to a canon shot or a volley of musket fire. By the 1880's, the use of the word blizzard was used by many across the United States and in England.

The upper Midwest and Great Plains of the United States tends to be the region that experiences blizzards most often. With few trees or other obstructions to reduce wind and blowing snow, this part of the country is particular vulnerable to blizzards. However, blizzards can occur in any location that has a climate that experiences snowfall.

The last time we had a true blizzard around here was way back in January of 1996.  I think we're over due, don't you?

Do you remember the 1993 and or 1996 blizzard?  If so, post your memory below in the comment section.

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