A rare “thundersnow” storm struck parts of Australia this weekend, causing Australians — who aren’t used to snow — to light up social media with photos and videos.
It’s winter Down Under — the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning that Australia is in the depths of the worst winter it’s seen in years. As BuzzFeed reports, an epic cold front, unofficially dubbed the “Antarctic Vortex,” is bringing unprecedented cold temperatures — by Australian standards, anyway — and even snow to a country that only rarely gets even a few flakes.
— Gabrielle (@gabwatson) July 11, 2015
The unprecedented winter weather brought a phenomenon that’s rare even in places where snow is common: thundersnow. Thundersnow is exactly what you think it is: thunder and lightning occurring during snowfall instead of rain. Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Mick Logan described thundersnow to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“You get the bang and the rumble but instead of it being dominated by rain and hail, it’s all snow that’s coming out of the system. There’s usually a bit of hail that comes with it as well. It happens when the atmosphere is so cold that instead of getting rain, the bulk of the precipitation is snow.”
So how rare is thundersnow in Australia? So rare that the Aussie government doesn’t even bother to keep records.
“We don’t keep records of [thundersnow events] at the Bureau so it’s hard to know how often we get them.”
Still, Australians seem to be admiring, if not enjoying, their rare event, if social media is any indication.
— news.com.au (@newscomauHQ) July 11, 2015
Even in places where snow is not rare at all — places like, say, Boston — thundersnow is a rare occurrence. You may recall this viral video from last winter of Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore losing his mind when he experienced thundersnow while reporting on-location.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), Australia may have seen the last of its rare thundersnow for the time being. The weather forecast for southern Australia calls for warmer weather over the next ten days.
[Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Olaf Naami]