Rare thunder-snow storm hits Mauna Kea

Written by: 
Leslie Owusu
Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano and the highest peak on Big Island, was hit with snowfall, thunder and lightning on Dec. 18. This phenomenon is known as thundersnow, according to the Huffington Post.
 
In a message sent to its Twitter 10,600 followers, the National Weather Service of Honolulu tweeted, “Mauna Kea rangers reporting significant snowfall with continuous thunder and lightning over the summits #thundersnow in Hawaii! #hiwx.”
 
Shortly after, a winter storm warning and wind advisory was issued for all summits on Big Island through the following Monday, Dec. 19. Although the Big Island gets snow a few times a year, simultaneous thunder and lighting is something that is not common, according to the National Weather Service.
 
In an article titled “What is Thundersnow and Why Does It Happen?” by the Weather Channel, Dr. Greg Forbes explained, “Most thundersnow events develop when 'ordinary' flat, layered snow clouds develop upward bumps or 'turrets'… They rise upward above the rest of the flat snow cloud by about 5,000 feet.”
 
Webcam footage of the storm was filmed directly from Mauna Kea, but some of the camera actually froze and left low quality footage with little visibility. 
 
Due to snowfall earlier in the month, many snow enthusiasts posted pictures of snowmen, snowboards, and boogie-board-turned-sleds onto social media platforms to show their excitement for the snow.
 
Thundersnow develops when the air is below freezing near the ground, according to Forbes. “Unlike most summer thunderstorms, it isn't near-ground air that rises all the way into the tall thunderstorm top.
 
"The instability is in only a shallow layer aloft. In thundersnow, the 'action' mainly takes place in a rather shallow layer that is usually near 20,000 feet and only around 5,000 feet thick.”
Date Published: 
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Last Edited: 
Tuesday, January 31, 2017