What is a snow squall?

Winter Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin
Day 3 - Winter Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 6:21 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2023 at 6:50 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The third topic of Winter Weather Awareness Week is something we don’t experience too frequently but can pose a dangerous threat when it does occur: snow squalls.

These are different from a winter storm because they’re not associated with a big system. Instead, they develop when a small burst of energy moves over an area of mild air. It moves in so fast that the warmer air rises quickly, condenses, and creates an intense burst of snow. This is similar to a downpour in a thunderstorm.

Like a downpour in a thunderstorm, snow squalls are very isolated and don’t last very long. A typical snow squall will fizzle out in an hour or less.

But don’t let the seemingly small nature of this phenomenon fool you! Snow squalls cause visibility to drop under a mile in just a matter of minutes, creating incredibly dangerous travel conditions.

During the winter, we’ll be watching for snow squall-producing conditions and will give you the First Alert when snow squalls could develop later in the day. The National Weather Service will issue a snow squall warning when one occurs.

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