What’s the difference between a blizzard and a snow squall?

Weather

(WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – Tuesday’s theme for Winter Weather Awareness Week goes over the types of snow events and the differences between them. Upstate New Yorkers are already familiar with lake effect snow and how it’s caused by cold air moving over the warm lake. Though what might not be so familiar is the difference between a winter storm, blizzard, snow squall, and lake effect snow.

The National Weather Service has definitions for all of these terms which goes over the specific criteria for each. A blizzard occurs when there’s blowing and/or falling snow with winds of at least 35 mph, reducing visibilities to a quarter of a mile or less for at least three hours. When it is not snowing out but the wind is still blowing snow around reducing visibility, it is called a ground blizzard.

Snow Squalls are intense, but short-lived, periods of moderate to heavy snowfall with gusty winds that result in reduced visibilities and whiteout conditions. A winter storm encompasses several different winter weather events and is defined as an event of heavy sleet, heavy snow, ice storm, heavy snow and blowing snow, or a combination of events. Lake effect snow events happen when cold air, often originating from Canada, moves across the open waters of the Great Lakes.

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