Couldn't find element LayerAd

Error finding content

Blizzards - Windows to the Universe

Shop Windows to the Universe

Our Glaciers: Then and Now activity kit helps you see the changes taking place in glaciers around the world. See all our activity kits and classroom activities.
Reduced visibility is common during a blizzard. This series of images show the progression of a blizzard that hit Winchester Hills, WY on December 20, 2006. These images were taken before the snow fell, 11AM, and 3PM respectively. This blizzard caused 12.5 inches (0.3 meters) of snow to fall in Cheyenne.
National Weather Service Forecast Office of Cheyenne, WY/ Ben Jacquot

Blizzards

Can you image winds blowing at 75 mph (120 kph), snowfall of 43 inches (1 meter), lost electrical power, and roofs collapsing due to the weight of the snow? These events were part of the Blizzard of 1993 that hit the entire East Coast of the United States.

The National Weather Service defines a blizzard as a storm with large amounts of snow or blowing snow, winds greater than 35 mph (56 kph), and visibility of less than ¼ mile (0.4 km) for at least three hours. Some blizzards have no falling snow. Instead, snow that had fallen before the blizzard is blown around or drifts in a way to create these conditions. This type of blizzard is called a ground blizzard. Conditions for a blizzard usually will build up on the northwestern side of a powerful storm system. The strong winds are from the difference in pressures between two systems. This means the difference in the low pressure system which is causing the stormy weather and the high pressure system to the west of the low.

The word blizzard was first used in the United States during the 1870’s when a snowstorm in Iowa was described as a blizzard. This word has been used throughout the United States and England ever since.

Blizzards are most common in the United States mostly the upper Midwest and the Great Plains according to the National Weather Service. Other countries that have blizzards include Canada and Russia. Russia uses a different name for blizzards, "purgas". Blizzards can occur all over the world. Iran experienced a blizzard in January of 2008 where the temperatures reached -11ºF (-24ºC), and record snowfalls were recorded. Places near the equator can experience blizzards especially at high altitudes.

Conditions of a blizzard can be severe. Travel becomes dangerous when the blowing snow causes whiteout conditions and sky and ground look white. Roads can be partially or fully blocked by drifts of snow that have been caused by the blowing snow. Many times cold temperatures are part of blizzard conditions. The cold temperatures can cause frostbite or hypothermia.

Last modified August 1, 2008 by Vanessa Pearce.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Wind

Wind is moving air. Warm air rises, and cool air comes in to take its place. This movement creates different pressures in the atmosphere which creates the winds around the globe. Since the Earth spins,...more

History of Large Blizzards of North America

During the winter months, blizzards are common in the northern parts of North America. Some of the largest blizzard events that have hit this area of the United States and Canada are described below. On...more

Examples of Advisories, Watches, and Warnings for Weather Events

Below is a list of some weather conditions that call for an advisory, watch, or warning. Severe Thunderstorm Watch: A severe thunderstorm watch is issued when a thunderstorm with winds greater than 57...more

The Snow-Storm by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields, Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven, And veils the farm-house...more

Rainbows

Rainbows appear in the sky when there is bright sunlight and rain. Sunlight is known as visible or white light and is actually a mixture of colors. Rainbows result from the refraction and reflection of...more

The Four Seasons

The Earth travels around the sun one full time per year. During this year, the seasons change depending on the amount of sunlight reaching the surface and the Earth's tilt as it revolves around the sun....more

Research Aircraft

Scientists sometimes travel in specially outfitted airplanes in order to gather data about atmospheric conditions. These research aircraft have special inlet ports that bring air from the outside into...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF