Q:

How do blizzards form?

A:

A blizzard requires three things to form: temperatures below freezing at ground level and in the clouds to allow snow to form, enough moisture to allow clouds and eventually snow to form, and a mass of warm air rising over a mass of cold air that creates strong winds. Bizzards are typically formed when a high-pressure system meets a low-pressure system.

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Not every severe snowstorm is considered a blizzard, and in fact, a blizzard doesn't even need to involve much snow. The National Weather Service has a set of three criteria that must be met for a storm to be considered a blizzard. First, there needs to be blowing or falling snow that results in a reduction of visibility to less than one-quarter of a mile. Second, the storm needs to produce sustained winds or frequent wind gusts in excess of 35 mph, and finally, the previous two conditions need to continue for at least three hours.

Many blizzards do not involve heavy or wet snow but instead very light snow, which has quite minimal water content and easily is blown around by the wind. Even though the East Coast of the United States typically gets more snow, blizzards are much more common in the northern Midwest due to the high wind factor in that area.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Where do blizzards happen most often?

    A:

    Blizzards occur most often on mountaintops. In the United States, common locations for blizzards include Denali in Alaska, Mount Washington in New Hampshire and Mount Rainier in Washington.

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  • Q:

    How are blizzards predicted or forecast?

    A:

    According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, blizzard prediction relies on modeling weather systems, as well as predicting temperatures. When a weather system moves through an area experiencing near- or sub-freezing temperatures, it can create the potential for anything from freezing rain to a full-fledged blizzard.

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  • Q:

    Why do blizzards occur?

    A:

    Blizzards occur whenever a winter weather system pairs heavy snowfall with high winds, or when a winter windstorm strikes an area that has recently experienced heavy snowfall. If the storm creates sustained winds of at least 35 miles per hour and reduces visibility to a quarter-mile or less due to blowing snow, it is defined as a blizzard.

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  • Q:

    What are some famous blizzards?

    A:

    Major blizzards in U.S. history include those from March 11 to 14, 1888; January 27 to 28, 1922; February 5 to 7, 1978; January 6 to 10, 1996; December 26 to 27, 2010; and March 12 to 15, 1993. The storm from March 12 to 15, 1993, is sometimes referred to as the Storm of the Century.

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