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Difference Between Snowstorm and Blizzard 

Extreme weather conditions can be harmful to humans and can negatively impact the environment as well as the economy. Two of the most common weather conditions that can occur during the colder seasons are snowstorms and blizzards. How do these two differ? 


Definition of Snowstorm and Blizzard 

A snowstorm is a weather condition that involves rain, the formation of ice, snowfall, and sleet. Because temperatures go below freezing point, a snowstorm is also referred to as a winter storm. 

A blizzard is a snowstorm that is accompanied by very strong winds. In short, a blizzard is a severe snowstorm. To be properly classified as a blizzard, a snowstorm must have sustained wind speeds of 35 mph (56 km/h), have visibility restrictions of up to a quarter of a mile due to snow, and must last for at least 3 hours. 


Characteristics of Snowstorm and Blizzard 

Apart from large amounts of snowfall, at least 2 inches (5 cm) of snow in places where snow is not typical is considered a snowstorm. However, snowfall of more than 6 inches (15 cm) is disruptive and is considered a snowstorm or winter storm in other parts of the country. 

A blizzard has the characteristics of a snowstorm but with the addition of frequent gusts or sustained winds of 35 mph (56 km/h) as well as reduced visibility of a quarter of a mile or less for at least 3 hours.


Snowstorms fall under three categories: snowstorms, freezing rain, and wintry mixes. Snowstorms involve a high amount of snow that leads to snow piles, snow drifts, and similar conditions. As a result, it can cause disruptions in traffic as well as transportation, among others. 

Blizzards, on the other hand, fall into the categories of snowstorm-type blizzard, lake-effect blizzard, and ground blizzard. A snowstorm-type blizzard involves winds of at least 35 mph (56 km/h) as well as reduced visibility of up to 1,300 feet for a sustained period of time. 

As the name suggests, a lake-effect blizzard typically takes place along the shore of North America’s Great Lakes Region and other large lakes. This type of blizzard, however, is a rare event. 

The third type of blizzard is known as a ground blizzard. Compared to a traditional blizzard, a ground blizzard does not involve significant snowfall. During a ground blizzard, snow that has already fallen is carried in the air by high winds. Depending on the direction of the winds, ground blizzards are classified as vertical advection (upward draft with the wind), horizontal advection (winds blow horizontally across the surface of the Earth), and thermal-mechanical (a combination of vertical and horizontal advection).

Precipitation Forms

A snowstorm may involve rain, snow, ice pellets, rime or frost found on cold objects and graupel or soft hail or snow pellets.

On the other hand, snow is the main form of precipitation during a blizzard. 

Environmental Effects 

Spring flooding, cornices, and avalanches are common environmental effects of winter storms or snowstorms.

Blizzards often give rise to a whiteout, is a condition where there is very limited visibility. 

Effect on the Economy

Due to the effects of the extremely cold weather, snowstorms can cause ruined crops, power outages, car accidents, damage to telephone lines, and delayed or canceled flights. 

Since a blizzard is a severe snowstorm, the effects stated above are the same but with heightened intensity. In the Arctic and Antarctic regions, blizzards can cause a whiteout, where sunlight is reflected by the snow and ice, making it difficult for people in the area to have a perception of balance and depth as well as a sense of direction. 

Season/s of Occurence 

Snowstorms can occur in the autumn, winter, and spring seasons. 

Blizzards often occur in winter. 


Summary of Difference Between Snowstorm Vs. Blizzard : Comparison Table

With extreme weather conditions being experienced throughout the globe, it’s reasonable to expect that the effects of snowstorms and blizzards will be heightened in the coming years. The important thing is to be prepared to prevent the loss of life as well as minimize the damage to livelihood and properties.


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[0]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/blizzard-snow-winter-walk-cold-1972645/

[1]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/snow-snowstorm-winter-trail-forest-20377/


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