Polar Vortex, Thundersnow & Other Weather Meanings
It's winter and that means talk of snow, ice, and the polar vortex, but what does that mean and what do other weather terms mean? I can help with that. Winter usually brings snow, ice, sleet, and freezing rain, now I'm sure you know what all of that means. But winter also brings the Polar Vortex, Graupel, Snow Squalls, and Thundersnow. Those might be unfamiliar terms, so now is your chance to finally find out what they mean.
First, the Polar Vortex is a term that gets thrown around all of the time, but not many know what it is or what it actually means for the weather. The Polar Vortex is actually a belt of winds encircling a reservoir of frigid air in the North Pole (and also the South Pole during its winter). When a band or piece of it breaks off, it brings intense cold to the lower 48 states. Another note: there are two polar vortexes; the one that affects us resides in the lower atmosphere called the Tropospheric Polar Vortex. The other vortex is called the Stratospheric and it is mostly for weather research and it affects weather higher in the sky.
Here's something you might have never heard of: Snow squalls. Snow Squalls are short-lived bands of heavy snow and can sometimes have strong winds. Snow squalls can look like a blizzard but are shorter than blizzards and can create whiteout conditions kind of like a summertime thunderstorm.
Next up, Thundersnow is basically what it sounds like, a thunderstorm but with snow rather than rain. This winter storm brings vivid lightning, booming thunder and heavy snowfall, but a warning: if you see a flash or hear a rumble, get back inside as it is a sign of bad weather coming.
Finally, here's something you might have never heard of and it's Graupel. What is it? Well, it's basically snow “pellets.” They form when droplet of water that are very cold collect around and freeze onto a snowflake. Graupel may bounce off your jacket or the hood of your car; you can even hold them in your hand and crunch them. They’re usually about a quarter-inch across.
If you want to see more winter weather meanings, you can here.