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ashes53
01-20-2005, 10:11 AM
My husband and I have been bickering back and forth and to explanations as to why we never see or hear of thunderstorms in the winter months in Michigan. I'd like to once and for all win this argument with him, so any help is greatly appreciated.

rfgdxm
01-20-2005, 10:14 AM
My husband and I have been bickering back and forth and to explanations as to why we never see or hear of thunderstorms in the winter months in Michigan. I'd like to once and for all win this argument with him, so any help is greatly appreciated.
I live in Michigan, and *have* actually earwitnessed snow accompanied by thunder on mulltiple coocasions. It DOES happen.

plnnr
01-20-2005, 10:22 AM
Thunderstorms occur when warm, humid air collides with colder, drier air (IIRC). I don't suspect that there's much warm, humid air in Michigan in the winter months, and little of it moving into the state from outside.

We had thunderstorms here in VA back in December that were some real boomers, but that was because we had warm, humid air moving up from the south that was hitting colder, drier air coming down from Canada.

CurtC
01-20-2005, 10:26 AM
I'm not a weather expert, so take this with a grain of salt. The common way for thunderstorms to form is for the Sun to heat the ground, which warms up the air directly above it, which becomes lighter because it's warmer, and a clump of this warm air breaks off and rises up. Depending on how fast it cools off as it rises, it can go quite high (as it goes higher, it's climbing up through colder and colder air, so is less dense than the surrounding air for quite a while). As it cools off, it can no longer hold as much humidity, so the water vapor condenses on little particles, so it forms a cloud. Eventually, with lots of these clumps of air breaking off, you get a very tall cloud (the tops of these are typically 60,000 feet I think), which is a very good thunderstorm generator.

In winter, you don't have as much heating action, so you don't have these rising pockets of air, and you don't get these typical "local" thunderstorms like you do in summer. We still get some t-storms here in Texas in winter, but they're usually associated with an approaching mass of cold air.

pulykamell
01-20-2005, 10:32 AM
It's happened here in chilly Chicago two or three times in the past month. I would agree that it's not a usual occurance, but it's not altogether rare, either. And, yes, it was snow accompanied by lightning and thunder.

Finagle
01-20-2005, 10:37 AM
It's rare, but it can happen. You want to look up thundersnow (http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/13646/111679) for further references.

It looks like a prerequisite for thunderstorms is a lot of convective lift in the clouds. That doesn't happen often in winter because cold, dry air is usually pretty stable. So you get thundersnow most commonly near lakes (where the warm water can cause lift) or mountains (again, lift). However, if cold air impacts a warm, humid air mass in just the right way, you can get thundersnow even if no lakes or mountains are present. If you don't see this in Michigan much, I'm guessing you're not too near the Great Lakes, and that warm air masses don't make it up there that often in the winter.

ashes53
01-21-2005, 07:21 AM
Thank you all for your very prompt replies. My husband was very greatful to finally ending this debate.

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