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Snow, clouds and convection: How snow-cover can prevent clouds from forming

What We Saw From Space

Snow was clearly visible across central Nebraska this afternoon after a round of heavy snow fell across that area this afternoon. As the sun warmed the earth's surface throughout the day, an interesting phenomenon occurred.

Notice how "popcorn-like" clouds (cumulus clouds) ballooned up and surrounded the large strip of snow, but they didn't form on top of it...

Why was that?

How These Types of Clouds Form

Well first, we have to understand how these types of clouds form. Cumulus clouds are a product of warm air that's generated by heat from the sun. This warm air then rises into the atmosphere and forms clouds.

Think of it like a boiling pot of water. In the atmosphere, instead of getting bubbles bubbling up, you get clouds to bubble up.

How Snow Can Prevent These Clouds From Forming

So what does the snow do to prevent these clouds from "bubbling up"? Well, when the sun shines on snow, instead of heating the earth, the energy is actually absorbed into the snowfall (which causes the snow to melt.)

In essence what happens is the energy is spent removing snow instead of causing air to rise, preventing clouds from developing. Think of this like throwing a bunch of ice cubes in a pot of boiling water... you'll find that the water will quickly lose it's bubbly characteristics.

It's Almost May... Can We Stop Talking About Snow???

We're almost there folks. Our team can say, with at least a good bit of certainty that we're done with snow for the season and in general, cold weather.

However, that doesn't mean a quick start to summer-like weather. In fact, the latest from the Climate Prediction Center indicated the Midwest may be one of the cool spots throughout the month of May.

Their forecast favors near or just below normal temperatures for the month, with the warmth stuck across the coasts of the United States.


Insider Blog

Luke Victor

Luke Victor gives forecasts on ABC 17 News broadcasts and reports on weather stories on air and online, giving viewers and readers a deeper look at what causes different types of weather.


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