Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On the topic of Snowstorms

The talk today hereabouts is all about the snowstorm headed our way, expected to arrive tonight after midnight.  The weather forecasters predict we'll be seeing anywhere from 12-17 inches of snowfall and high winds.  It's gotten us thinking about the phenomenon of snow and particularly snowstorms that bring large amounts of snow rapidly.

Snow is defined as precipitation in the form of flakes of crystalline water ice that falls from clouds.  Now what differentiates snowfall from a storm or a blizzard?  The difference between a blizzard and a snowstorm is the strength of the wind.  To be considered a blizzard the storm must have sustained gusts of wind in excess of 35 mph with blowing or drifting snow that impedes visibility to a quarter mile for a sustained period of time, typically 3 hours.   It appears we might be expecting a blizzard here in Madison.

Recently discovered was the online Wind Map, a personal art project that translates wind speeds and directions into a mesmerizing image.  Here's the current map of the wind patterns accompanying the winter storm headed our way.

Some weather related resources for tracking snowstorms:

Consult the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service online updates here

The National Weather Service's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center offers "Snowfall Probability Forecasts" updates available here

View the Wind Map, a mesmerizing way to visualize current wind movements here