What is a blizzard?

A blizzard is a form of severe winter storm. There are several standards that have been used to describe blizzards.


For a winter storm to be classified as a blizzard, the prevailing weather condition must reach certain levels. It is widely accepted that, if the visibility decreases to a quarter of a mile (400 metres) or less, the form of precipitation being experienced is snow or ice, the wind is blowing at an average speed of at least 32 mph, and the condition persists for at least three consecutive hours, then the winter storm is a blizzard.

Environment Canada has a slightly different description of a blizzard. The winter storm must reach wind speeds of 40km/h. The precipitation must be snow; visibility has to be reduced to less than 1 km and the temperatures should be less than 25 degrees Celsius. These conditions must prevail for at least four hours before the winter storm is classified as a blizzard.

A ground blizzard is another weather condition associated with blizzards. When the conditions that qualify a blizzard persist, after snow has stopped falling, the condition is referred to as ground blizzard.

A whiteout is an extreme form of blizzard. Whiteouts occur when downdrafts together with snowfall occur intensely such that it is impossible to distinguish between the grounds from the air.

Weather conditions are unpredictable and so are blizzards. A blizzard can come without much warning. Blizzards can cause a lot of damage to people's lives and infrastructure.

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