Snow squalls are sometimes deadly. What’s a snow squall, you ask? It’s nothing new. It’s essentially a beefed up snow shower, which features brief heavy snow, wind and falling temperatures that lead to whiteout conditions. Snow squalls often result in minor snow accumulations, but in some cases, they can also create ice when the snow initially melts on roadways. Bottom line, something you don’t want to be driving in.
Snow squalls have been in forecasts of late as a result of the year’s first Arctic outbreak. A bit of low-level moisture, strong northwest winds and lapse rates approaching dry adiabatic levels. That means it gets much colder as you move higher up in the atmosphere. It’s very easy for the air to rise.
This week, the annual American Meteorological Society meeting is being held in Phoenix, Arizona. One presentation was on perception of risk, and that photos are needed in addition to other tools, such as radar.
Visual perception of tornadoes – A photo provides risk certainty; radar provides beauty and carries visual authority. – Eosco #AMS2015
— Chris Hattings (@wxgeekbeavis) January 6, 2015
The tweet by Chris Hattings was in regards to a tornadic situation; nonetheless, I would argue visuals on any weather phenomenon are helpful.
An intense snow squall moved through South Williamsport, PA today. For those unfamiliar with the area, Little League International is based there. It’s where the annual Little League Baseball World Series is played each August.
Here’s what happened (the camera is close in time to the radar):
Here’s just the radar, out of State College, PA:
A paper was published last year by Banacos and Loconto (NWS Burlington) and DeVoir (NWS State College), in which they establish a “snow squall parameter,” among other helpful observations. Read it here.
Snow squalls are certainly a case where a false positive (squalls in forecast, but you don’t get hit) is better then a false negative (squalls NOT in forecast, and you get hit), so long as the threat level is accurately communicated in a forecast. Situational awareness is a must in squally situations.