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.
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.Learn More
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.Full Answer >
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.Full Answer >
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.Full Answer >
The weight of the fallen snow during a blizzard may collapse roofs or bring down trees, power lines or telephone lines. The snow also may result in dangerous driving and whiteout conditions, leading motorists to get into accidents or to become lost or stranded. Blizzards may bring extremely cold temperatures, which increase the risk of frostbite. Cold temperatures can also cause water pipes to freeze.Full Answer >