Thundersnow seen across Metro Detroit as winter storm strengthens

As snow bombarded Metro Detroit Friday night, reports of "Thundersnow" came in from across the area. 

Thundersnow is unusual because it can only happen a few times a year. In order to form, thunderstorms require three things: Moisture, Unstable Air and Lift. 

As air heats, it rises. Rising air cools, condenses and forms clouds. Air is considered unstable if it continues to rise on its own after getting a nudge from a cold front or warm front. Lift is provided in the form of a front, heat, low pressure or other mechanisms that will force the air to continue to rise.

These components rarely occur when it’s snowing because the air temperature in winter snowstorms is consistently cold, at both high and lower points in the atmosphere.

However, in some winter storms, shallow layers of warm air are lifted and continue to rise on their own; in this storm, we know it’s happening south near Monroe, where a rain/snow mix is occurring thanks to milder air at the surface. 

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Thundersnow can increase snowfall and cause enough of an electric charge separation for lightning to occur.