Weekly Hack: Winter weather terms cheat sheet

Published: January 31, 2020

winter weather By vvvita/Shutterstock

Do you know your winter weather terms? (Graupel? Silver thaw? Watermelon snow? Sleet vs. freezing rain?) Our cheat sheet to 20 terms, defined in 20 words or less. Go.

1) Alberta clipper = Fast moving, low-pressure weather system that develops off the Rocky Mountains, bringing snow and cold air. Thanks, mountains.

2) Blizzard = Snow + the 4-4-4 rule. (40 km/h wind, sustained for four hours, with visibility reduced to 400 m.)

3) Frostquake = Underground ice expanding. Boom. (Also called “ice quakes.”)

4) Nor’Easter = Powerful storm that forms along the East Coast, and, in winter, brings snow.

5) Silver thaw = A shiny coating of ice that can form after freezing rain.

6) Rime ice = Water vapour—from fog or mist—that settles on a surface and forms an opaque, white layer.

7) Thundersnow = Thunderstorm, with snow.

8) Watermelon snow = Pink snow; it has red algae growing on it. (Don’t eat it.)

9) Ice volcano = A conical mound of lake ice that spews water, not lava.

10) Snow rollers = Curls or tubes of snow—think a rolled-up carpet—that form on a windy day.

11) Graupel = Hail’s smaller, softer cousin—it falls apart in your hand and won’t crack your windshield.

12) Bomb cyclone = An explosive, intense winter storm.

13) Pancake ice = Circular slabs that form in slightly turbulent water, usually near the beginning of winter. (Don’t eat them.)

14) Snow showers = Brief periods of snowfall that start and stop abruptly.

15) Freezing rain = Rain that falls through a thin layer of icy air and freezes on contact with the surfaces it lands on.

16) Sleet = Frozen raindrops—they form when the rain falls through a thick layer of icy air.

17) Snow squall = Burst of heavy snow and strong wind that usually lasts no more than an hour.

18) Flurries = Intermittent snow, sometimes swirling, that usually doesn’t accumulate on the ground.

19) Snowpack = Compacted layers of snow that form in mountainous areas and melt very slowly, from the top down, in the spring.

20) Blowing snow = Blowing snow.

Read about Canada’s wild winter weather phenomena.

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