UK weather: What is Thundersnow?

UK weather: Chilly temperatures forecast by Met Office

2020 has been a complex year for all of us – but Scotland got an extra shock early this morning when a weather phenomenon called thundersnow struck the eastern portion of the central belt and Fife. Thundersnow happens only in a rare mix of winter conditions that can cause the weather sensation.

The UK has experienced some unusual weather in recent days – with snow in early December not being seen for a number of years.

Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said: “That’s a significant amount of snow, especially this early in December.

“The snowiest months are usually a bit later into winter, January and February, and it’s also very early in December at the moment.”

Scots took to social media to report noises like “a bomb,” “an explosion,” and even “a sonic boom” early this morning – so what was the phenomenon causing all the fuss?

What is Thundersnow?

Thundersnow occurs when the warm air closest to the ground rises enough to form a thunderstorm, but is still cold enough to freeze into snow.

The Met Office says thundersnow is formed when thunderstorms “give rise to heavy downpours of snow”, and can only take place in winter conditions.

The Met Office adds: “This, along with the usual thunder and lightning, is called ‘thundersnow’.

“Thundersnow is unusual only because it can only occur in a few months of the year.

“When thundersnow occurs at night the lightning appears brighter – this is because the light reflects off the snowflakes.

“Thundersnow is often very atmospheric. The snow dampens the sound of thunder and reflects the lightning making it seem brighter.”

While thundersnow is usually quieter than normal thunder, residents in Scotland, particularly Edinburgh and Fife, have reported being woken up by huge claps early Friday morning.

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Residents of Scotland took to social media to express their surprise at the rude awakening, which took place at around 5am Friday morning.

One user tweeted: “Wide awake now full of adrenaline after getting woken up by thundersnow and it is by far the craziest loudest thing ever. Set car alarms off!”

Another tweeted: “Anyway I can now confirm that in the event I get woken up by what I think is the world ending, my first reaction would be to check Twitter to make sure.”

Police Scotland even issued a statement urging the public “not to be alarmed” and stressing “we are currently experiencing thunder and lightning.”

One follower replied: “It was very loud like an explosion. I can imagine why some folks were concerned as the house shook and the car alarms in the car park set off.”

The rest of the UK shouldn’t feel left out, however, the Met Office has promised snow for much of the British Isles in the coming days.

Meteorologist at the Met Office Alex Burkill said the “most significant snow” would likely fall in England, Cumbria and the Pennines.

Some areas on high ground above 400m could see up to 3.9 inches (10cm) of snowfall today.

Yellow weather warnings have been issued up and down the country, predominately for snow.

The Met Office said the cold spell is expected to last through to Friday but the weekend would see brighter weather and even some sunshine.

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