Sunday, February 9, 2014

Apple #661: Blizzards

So about a week ago, I was out & about in the woods, as I am wont to do.  It started snowing, which I of course enjoyed.  Then the wind picked up and the snow got thicker.  It didn't take long before my coat was coated with snow, my gloves, the front of my pants, and later when I took off my hat which is brown, it was white with thick snow.  The trees were creaking and cracking in the wind, and the snow was coming down diagonally, stinging my cheeks.

But since I was wearing my super sweater, plus sweater tights under my pants, and various other warm and cozy garments, I was snug as a bug and digging the heck out of the crazy weather.  Some guy and I crossed paths--one of the few people I saw out & about too--and he grinned and said, through the wind and snow, "Awesome, isn't it?"    I grinned back and said, "Yeah, it is."

This squirrel and I were both digging the snowstorm.
Photo by the Apple Lady

I did wonder, though, was I out in a blizzard?  When does a regular old snowstorm cross the line into blizzard-land?

Crossing the bridge to blizzard land?
(Photo by the Apple Lady)

  • For a snowstorm to be classified as a Blizzard, the following criteria must be true:
    • The wind must reach speeds over 35 mph for 3 hours or longer
    • Visibility must be less than 1/4 mile due to falling or blowing snow

Would you say this is visibility less than 1/4 mile? I really don't know.
Photo by the Apple Lady

    • It's important to note that a storm could reach blizzard status without any falling snow.  The wind could pick up loose snow from the ground and blow it around, to the point that visibility is reduced to less than 1/4 mile.  That doesn't happen very often, but it is possible.  Technically, that's called a Ground Blizzard.
    • In my particular snowstorm, even if the winds were as high as 35 mph (I did not have my anemometer on me so I don't know how fast the wind was blowing), and even if the visibility was that poor, I would have had to wait for 3 hours before calling it a blizzard.
    • I wasn't out in that weather for 3 hours, but for the amount of time I was in it, I'd say that storm at least qualified as a Snow Squall:
      • Heavy snow shower combined with gusty winds.
      • May be short in duration, but can still bring a significant amount of snowfall
      • Snow squalls are typical in the Great Lakes region. 

    At the very least, a snow squall.
    Photo by the Apple Lady

      • On the other extreme, a blizzard becomes a Severe Blizzard when
        • Winds are over 45 mph
        • Visibility is near 0
        • Temperatures drop to 10F or lower
      • Unlike in regular blizzards, duration is not a factor.  I guess they figure, if things get that bad, it doesn't matter how long it lasts, it's just plain bad. 

      If you want to see what the effects of a severe blizzard look like, check out what recently happened in Slovenia, plus other parts of Europe:

      CBS Chicago, Blizzard vs. Snowstorm: What's the Difference?
      National Geographic Daily News, What's the Difference Between a Snowstorm and a Blizzard? glossary, snow squall; blizzard & severe blizzard
      Encyclopedia Britannica, severe blizzard, 9 Types of Snow Storms

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