Q:

Can a tornado occur during a snowstorm?

A:

Quick Answer

In theory, a tornado can happen during a snowstorm, but it is not likely as they require warm and humid air colliding with a cold front. Tornadoes can and do, however, occur immediately following a snow storm or when snow is still on the ground.

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Full Answer

Cold air funnels and winter water sprouts are also tornadoes and commonly occur during cold weather but are not associated with storms. A cold air funnel is a small tornado that can develop from a small thunderstorm. While technically a tornado, a cold air funnel does not typically cause much damage and may not even touch down, causing minimal wind damage, if any at all.

When a tornado occurs over water, it is called a water spout. A winter water sprout is sometimes called a "snownado" and is very rare. Water sprouts are funnel clouds that develop over water and, like other tornadoes, require a specific set of conditions. Winter water sprouts typically happen when cold arctic air comes in contact with relatively warm water temperatures. A recently documented winter water sprout occurred in December 2013 on Lake Superior when the air temperatures reached -7 degrees and met relatively warm water temperatures of 40 degrees.

Water sprouts can also occur in warm humid environments and happen most often in the Florida Keys.

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