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A blizzard (or winter hurricane) is a severe winter storm condition characterized by low temperatures, strong winds, and heavy blowing snow. Blizzards are formed when a high pressure system, also known as a ridge, interacts with a low pressure system; this results in the advection of air from the high pressure zone into the low pressure area.



According to Environment Canada, a winter storm must have winds of 40 km/h (25 mph) or more, have snow or blowing snow, visibility less than 500 ft (about 110 mile), a wind chill of less than −25 °C (−15 °F), and that all of these conditions must last for 4 hours or more before the storm can be properly called a blizzard.

In the United States, the National Weather Service defines a blizzard as sustained 35mph (56 km/h) winds which lead to blowing snow and cause visibilities of 500ft or less, lasting for at least 3 hours. Temperature is not taken into consideration when issuing a blizzard warning, but the nature of these storms is such that cold air is often present when the other criteria are met.[1] . Temperatures are generally below 0 °C (32 °F).

Other countries, such as the UK, have a lower threshold: the Met Office defines a blizzard as "moderate or heavy snow" combined with a mean wind speed of 30 mph (48 km/h) and visibility below 650 feet (200 m).

When there are blizzard conditions but no snow falling, meteorologists call this a ground blizzard because all the snow is already present at the surface of the earth and is simply being blown by high winds. Ground blizzards require large expanses of open and relatively flat land with a sufficient amount of accumulated and loosely packed, powdery snow to be blown around.


Although the word is commonly used to describe heavy snow and high winds, this is not a true "whiteout". Real "whiteouts" occur mostly in the Arctic and Antarctic during the spring, when snow is still deep on the ground and there is lots of daylight and surprisingly calm weather and excellent visibility. Whiteouts occur when rays of sunlight are bounced in all directions between bright white clouds, especially a thin layer of overcast and bright snow or ice. Clean snow and ice reflects nearly 85% of incoming light. Falling snowflakes, suspended fog droplets or ice particles in the air would make conditions even worse. In a true whiteout, neither shadows, nearby objects, landmarks, nor clouds are discernible. All sense of direction, depth perception and even of balance may be lost. Land and sky seem to blend, and the horizon disappears into a white nothingness. Whiteouts trick pilots and travelers into believing down is up and thinking far is near.


During mountainous snowfall

, Upper Engadin, above St. Moritz in Switzerland]] A similar though distinct phenomenon may occur in mountainous areas during heavy snowfall combined with being inside a cloud, when one cannot see depth or distance. When encountered by skiers, these conditions are challenging and dangerous, and extreme caution must be used in order to remain on the slope and avoid accidents. Depending on the intensity of the snowfall, visibility may be reduced to several meters; in less severe storms, such as the one pictured here, distinct objects (a chairlift and the supporting mast of a gondola) can be seen even at a distance, but depth and distance are almost impossible to determine, since the snow on the ground and in the air make it impossible to see clearly.

Economic impact of blizzards

Like all severe weather events such as hurricanes, droughts and floods, blizzards can be disruptive to local economies. This is especially the case when blizzards hit in localities in generally warmer climates where snowfall is infrequent. In cities that do not have snow removal equipment, traffic and commerce can be brought to a stand still for days and in some cases weeks. The economic impact ranges across industries, from lost productivity in companies because people cannot get to work, parents must stay home with children due to school closings, airport closures, product delivery delays and the actual cost of snow removal.[2]

See also


  1. ^ NOAA - National Weather Service
  2. ^ [1]

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Origins Unknown. Possibly from blizzard, a surname dating back to the 1700's(?). The earliest known use of blizzard as a term was in the Estherville, Iowa, Northern Vindicator on 23 April 1870. One week later it appeared again in the same newspaper, only with the now common double-z spelling. Best evidence is that the word was coined in that area of Iowa some years prior to this use.

The blizzard surname possibly comes from the blizzard one, dating back to the 1500's(?).

The word blizzard was used (not in relation to the weather) in America in the early 1800s. It meant a "sharp blow or knock; a shot" (usually gunfire) and later shifted meaning.

Probably from the German term "blitzartig", which meens "very fast, like a lightning"





blizzard (plural blizzards)

  1. A severe snowstorm, especially with strong winds and greatly reduced visibility.
  2. (figuratively) A large amount of paperwork.
  3. A large number of similar things, such as a blizzard of political ads.



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.


to blizzard

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to blizzard (third-person singular simple present blizzards, present participle blizzarding, simple past and past participle blizzarded) (impersonal)

  1. (of snow) To fall in windy conditions

Simple English

A blizzard is a large winter storm. It brings low temperatures, strong winds, and a lot of blowing snow. Blizzards start when a high pressure system touches as low pressure system. The word blizzard is sometimes used incorrectly by news media to talk about big winter storms, even if the storm is not a blizzard.



Some areas are more likely to be hit by blizzards than others, but a blizzard can occur in any place where snow falls. In North America, blizzards happen often in the northern-east states, and in the provinces of Canada. In this region, blizzards can happen more than twice each winter. They also occur often in the mountain ranges of western North America. Because these regions have low populations, blizzards sometimes are not reported.


A very dangerous type of blizzard is a whiteout. In a whiteout, downdrafts and snowfall are so think that people cannot tell the ground and sky apart. People caught in a whiteout lose their sense of direction very fast. This is a large danger to pilots when they are flying airplanes, because they cannot tell how close they are to the ground, and may crash.

Famous U.S. blizzards

under snow.]]The Great Blizzard of 1888 was very damaging for the Northeastern United States. In that blizzard, 400 people died, 200 ships sunk, and snowdrifts were 10 or 15 feet high. In the Great Plains, states were hit by the Schoolhouse Blizzard that trapped children in schools and killed 235 people. 

In 1880–1881 there was a winter that people in the Dakotas called the "Hard Winter". The author Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her book The Long Winter about that winter's story. It talks about one blizzard after another, and how it changed Laura's family and everybody around her. The book is almost all true. Her story of two men from the town of DeSmet, South Dakota, going after some wheat stored some miles south of DeSmet in February 1881 is true, and Ingalls later married one of the men, Almanzo Wilder). If the two men had not found and brought back the wheat, the people would have starved. The snow and ice thawed in April, and the railroads could start again. The train picture above was photographed on March 29, 1881, not far from DeSmet.

34 people died during a 3-day spring blizzard on March 1920 in North Dakota. One of the people who died was Hazel Miner, a teenage girl who died of freezing to death when she got lost on her way home from her one-room-school.

The Armistice Day Blizzard in 1940 surprised many people with how fast the temperature dropped. It was Template:Convert/°F in the morning, but by noon, it was snowing. Some of the people froze to death in the snow. 154 people died in the Armistice Day Blizzard.

105 years after the Great Blizzard of 1888, a giant blizzard, named the Storm of the Century, hit the U.S in 1993. It dropped snow on 26 states and reached as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico. In many southern U.S. areas, such as parts of Alabama, more snow fell in this storm than ever fell in an entire winter. Highways and airports closed across the U.S. The blizzard also made 15 tornadoes in Florida. When the storm was over, 270 people died and 48 were reported missing.

Other famous blizzards


  • The Blizzard of 1977
  • The Great Blizzard of 1978, with atmospheric pressure of 957 mbar (28.28 inHg) in Cleveland, Ohio, the lowest non-tropical atmospheric pressure in United States history.
  • The Northeastern United States Blizzard of 1978
  • The Halloween Blizzard of 1991 dropped 28.4 inches (72 cm) of snow on Minneapolis, Minnesota and 36.9 inches (94 cm) of snow on Duluth, Minnesota, causing $100 million of damage.
  • The North American blizzard of 1996
  • The Blizzard of 1999
  • The North American blizzard of 2003
  • White Juan (2004)
  • The North American blizzard of 2005
  • The North American blizzard of 2006, which set a New York City record for the most snow from a single storm


Other pages

Simple English Wiktionary has the word meaning for:

Other websites

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Wikimedia Commons has images, video, and/or sound related to:
  • Dr Richard Wild Website dedicated to the history, news and facts about heavy snow and blizzards.
  • Digital Snow Museum Photos of historic blizzards and snowstorms.
  • Blizzards Photo Gallery Photos of huge U.S. snowstorms, plus blizzard survival info — all from AOL Research & Learn
  • [1] Environment Canada's definition of Blizzard
  • [2] SEVERE Winter Weather Events Excerpts from The Canadian Weather Trivia Calendar


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