NJ Weather: Lightning and ‘thunderstorms’ could develop during Friday’s winter storm

Don’t worry if you see lightning in the sky and hear a few claps of thunder as it snows on Friday morning. Forecasters have said there is a possibility of isolated “thunderstorms” in New Jersey as the latest winter storm to hit our area intensifies.

Storm snow, also known as convective snow, is a term used by many meteorologists to describe a band of intense snow that develops much like a thunderstorm, occasionally triggering thunder and lightning.

Much like ordinary summer thunderstorms, thunderstorms are produced when there is a lot of energy and strong upward vertical movement of air, creating instability in the atmosphere, according to the WeatherWorks forecasting company. Thundersnow is more common during heavy, fast snow squalls.

Some meteorologists, including Steven DiMartino from NY NJ PA weather, say there is a possibility of a “thunderstorm” occurring during Friday’s storm, as heavy snow flurries are likely.

Alex Staarmann, a forecaster for the National Weather Service Regional Office in Mount Holly, agrees that this could happen.

“It’s definitely a possibility, given the setup,” Staarmann said. “There could certainly be thunder in heavy snow patches, but that wouldn’t be a widespread thing. “

“Lightning is formed because of the charge in the clouds where precipitation is generated,” Staarmann explained. “With a snowstorm, there are a lot of ice crystals,” and those crystals could trigger enough energy to create the static charges that trigger lightning.

And thunder is the sound we hear when “heated air (from lightning) expands explosively, creating a shock wave as the surrounding air is rapidly compressed,” NASA and NOAA say in this explanatory science. “The air then contracts rapidly as it cools. This creates an initial ‘cracking’ sound, followed by rumbling as the column of air continues to vibrate.

Current weather radar

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Len Melisurgo can be contacted at [email protected].

Robert M. Larson