Winter Weather…Gone Wild


I absolutely love weather. One reason is because weather tends to be as quirky as I am. While I have to say fall is my favorite season, winter comes in as a close second. It is unpredictable, frustrating, and sometimes utterly beautiful. It can also be a time where some of Mother Nature’s biggest tricks are played.


Imagine a bale of hay made of snow and then you will have a clear picture of a snow roller. Snow rollers made an appearance in the Midwest last winter for the first time in over 10 years in some areas. They are simply snow balls which roll across the land and grow layer by layer, but instead of creating a solid ball, they are hollow like tubes.
Snow rollers happen when there is a cold, solid pack of snow on the ground and then a wet, fresh snow falls on top of it. Combine this with cold temperatures and a stiff wind and you will likely see some snow rollers.
In our area, some people described the snow rollers as Swiss rolls or doughnuts of snow. Whatever you call them it is very cool to see a whole field of the snow balls.


Growing up in mid-Michigan, we were often hit with intense periods of lake-effect snow. The snow would come in fast and easily drop an inch or two of snow per hour – and sometimes would produce thunder and lightning.
Thundersnow is a winter thunderstorm which has the same components as a normal thunderstorm, only instead of rain falling, you have snow. It is most common during lake-effect snow events but can occur anywhere.
One interesting aspect of thundersnow is the snow changes the acoustics of the thunder. In a typical thunderstorm situation, you can hear thunder several miles away. With thundersnow, the snow only allows for thunder to be heard within two to three miles of the lightning. From my experience, this makes for very loud thunder.


Ice shoves, also known as ivu or shoreline ice pileups, occurs when strong winds and temperature changes allow for large sections of ice to be moved by lake or ocean currents. These shoves can pile ice up to 40 feet high and are loud like thunder or a train.
Ice shoves are more often heard of around the Great Lakes, but have also been reported in Canada. They can produce significant damage to homes, trees, and other structures.


Frost is defined by many as the deposit of ice crystals which is formed when water vapor is condensed at a temperature below freezing. If the temperatures were above freezing, the ground and vegetation would be covered in dew.
Hoar frost is one of several types of frost. It refers to the interlocking arrangement of white ice crystals which are deposited loosely on the ground and any other exposed object. Most people think it is simply frozen dew, but it is actually the result of the direct sublimation of gaseous water which later changes to the ice crystals we see.


Frost flowers, or ice blossoms, are frost pillars or columns which are made of thin layers of ice extruding from long-stemmed plants in autumn or early winter. They often form into delicate patterns which curl into “petals” resembling flowers.
The frost flowers are formed when there is freezing weather conditions, but the ground is not already frozen. The sap in the stem of the plants expands which causes the long, thin cracks to form along the stem. Water vapor is drawn into the cracks and freezes upon contact with the air.

Suzi House
Suzi House

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