The word lightning originates from the Middle English word lightenen (make bright). Lightning is an adjective (as in lightning strike, lightning speed, lightning bolt). Interestingly, Merriam-Webster provides two definitions of the word, the second being “a sudden stroke of fortune” (don’t tell that to someone who’s been too close for comfort or worse, struck by it).
Early detection of lightning – before it strikes – is one of the best ways to stay safe. Even though a storm may appear far away, it may be fast moving or actually closer than your eye can detect. INO Technologies hand-held weather monitor with lightning detection detects lightning up to 40 miles away!
Lightning is the ‘vivid’ flash of light produced by a discharge of atmospheric electricity from cloud to cloud and sometimes from cloud to ground. The typical jagged bolt is just one kind of lightning. Other types include balls, elves, blue jets, and red sprites.
Scientists and physicists still do not know exactly what triggers lightning, but cosmic rays from outer space could hold the key to unlocking this mystery. In ancient times people considered lightning a divine event and that lightning held mystical powers. The Mayans, Romans, and Hindu believed that mushrooms would grow in places where lightning struck.
A typical lightning bolt contains about 15 million volts of electricity so it’s no wonder that the heat produced by a bolt is an astronomical temperature – easily exceeding 100,000 degrees during a strong storm.
Estimates of deadly lightning strikes worldwide vary from 6,000 to 24,000 annually. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) says that in the U.S., 33 people are killed and an average 234 are injured by lightning strikes annually.
Weatherlore is an interesting, entertaining, centuries-old way to “predict” the weather, existing long before doppler radars were ever invented. Although most weatherlore is either too specific or too vague to accurately predict what the atmosphere will do. (A groundhog seeing its shadow will tell us when spring arrives? Really?) Surprisingly, though, much of it tends to have at least a grain of truth.
For example, let’s take a look at this old wives’ tale: “Thunder in winter brings snow in seven days.”
As we know from the phenomenon of thundersnow, thunder and lightning during a snowstorm will indeed create a heavy snowfall. However, how can thunder by itself tell us what the weather will be like a week from now? It can’t, of course, but the existence of thunder in the winter points to the existence of thunderstorms, and thunderstorms rely on an unstable atmosphere. Typically, this atmosphere will consist of cold air rushing in to displace warm air, so thunderstorms in the winter may indicate that a cold front is moving in. Whether or not that cold front will be followed by a system that produces snow can’t be accurately predicted, so it may be safer to say, “Thunder in winter brings cold weather.” However, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, for states from the Plains to the East Coast, thunder in the winter will be followed by snow within a week about 70% of the time.
Weather Folklore Forecasts — Fact or Fiction?
If one weather adage is actually true more often than not, what does that say about other weather tales? Considering 2016 has been one of the warmest years on record and that many states have faced a warmer-than-usual fall season, when can we expect snow? Some of the following weatherlore may hold an answer:
● If ant hills are high in July, winter will be snowy.
● If the first week in August is unusually warm, the coming winter will be snowy and long.
● For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall the following winter.
● Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry will cause snow to gather in a hurry.
● As high as the weeds grow, so will the bank of snow.
● A green Christmas, a white Easter.
● A warm October, a cold February.
● If the first snowfall lands on unfrozen ground, winter will be mild.
● A halo around the moon means it will rain or snow soon.
● As many days old as is the moon on the first snow, there will be that many snowfalls by crop planting time.
● See how high the hornet’s nest, ’twill tell how high the snow will rest.
● The higher the muskrats’ holes are on the riverbank, the higher the snow will be.
● Onion skins very thin, mild winter coming in; onion skins thick and tough, coming winter cold and rough.
What do you think? Do you find these tales have a grain of truth to them as well?
Did you see that the Weather Pro weather monitor was featured in Angling Trade? It is tough to find shelter sometimes when storms roll in quick and you are on the water. We think fisherman will love having the Weather Pro in their gear bag.
When you are outdoors the INO Weather Pro is a great tool to give you the information you need to keep safe when the weather turns bad. The Weather Pro is the first handheld device that combines real-time lightning detection up to 40 miles away with traditional weather data like temperature, pressure, humidity, heat index, dew point, and altitude. Click the link to read the article and find out more about how the INO Weather Pro can help you monitor the weather where ever you are with no internet or telecommunication connections needed.
When it rains, it rains. When it snows, it snows. And when it thundersnows, it really snows!
Thundersnow is a weather phenomenon that excites and surprises weather enthusiasts in the winter precisely because it’s so rare. Jim Cantore’s reaction on The Weather Channel sums it up well: “You can have your $500 million jackpot in Powerball, but I’ll take this, baby!”
WARNING – Jim gets pretty excited so be careful your volume isn’t to high! 😉
The reason thundersnow is such a rare occurrence is because very specific circumstances must be present in the atmosphere to create the kind of instability needed for a thunderstorm to occur. Air close to the ground must be warm enough to clash with the cooler air above, but that same air must still be cold enough to produce snow.
What’s more, when these particular circumstances exist, the process that creates lightning within the cloud will also create a heavier burst of snow, leaving a flash of bright white light in the sky and a thick layer of white on the ground. According to a 30-year study by atmospheric researchers from the University of Missouri, there is an 86 percent chance that at least six inches of snow will fall within 70 miles of the lightning flash.
If It’s Thundersnow, You’ll Want To Know
That same study says thundersnow only occurs about six times each year, and most of those occurrences happen in the Rocky Mountain region and areas near the Great Lakes. For this reason, most people in the U.S. will never experience a thundersnow in their lifetime.
The next time you’re dealing with a snowstorm, you can track any occurrences of this rare winter weather phenomenon with the handheld lightning detector feature of the INO Technology Weather Pro. Any time lightning flashes and strikes the ground, the Weather Pro will alert you and log the event. You might witness more than one flash, like Jim Cantore above, but for your own safety, it’s best to witness this weather event from inside a safe shelter.
As always, safety is a top priority. Most thundersnow lightning travels horizontally through the clouds and doesn’t make contact with the ground, but not all. Lightning strikes are still a possibility, so take precautions by following all lightning safety guidelines. If you’re stuck outside during a thundersnow, INO Technology’s Outdoor Lightning Safety Card can help guide you as you find your safest options to decrease your chances of a lightning strike. Click here for your own copy of our Outdoor Lightning Safety Card.
Did you see that the Weather Pro weather monitor was featured in Utility Products?
If you work in the outdoors as part of a construction crew, mining, forestry, or any number of occupations, the INO Weather Pro is a great addition to give you the information to keep you and your crew safe when the weather turns bad. The Weather Pro is the first handheld device that combines real-time lightning detection up to 40 miles away with traditional weather data like temperature, pressure, humidity, heat index, dew point, and altitude. Click the link to read the article and find out more about how the INO Weather Pro can help you monitor the weather where ever you are with no internet or telecommunication connections needed.