Blowing snow

Visibility reduced in blowing snow during a ground blizzard

Snow lifted from the surface by the wind, at eye level or more, that will reduce visibility.

- Blowing snow

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Severe snowstorm characterized by strong sustained winds and low visibility, lasting for a prolonged period of time—typically at least three or four hours.

Heavy snow during the January 2016 United States blizzard.
Blizzard into Tochal Skiing resort, Tehran and involved skiers.
Drifted snow near Burrow-with-Burrow, Lancashire, England, January 1963
Near-whiteout conditions dim the far end of Times Square in New York City, 2015.
March blizzard in North Dakota, 1966.
The Brooklyn Bridge during the Great Blizzard of 1888.
Conditions approaching a blizzard whiteout in Minnesota, on March 1, 2007. Note the unclear horizon near the center.
Illustration of the Great Blizzard of 1888
A snow blockade in southern Minnesota, central US. On March 29, 1881, snowdrifts in Minnesota were higher than locomotives.
Stereoscopic view card showing "Blasting ice with dynamite from in front of steamer on the ways, by Stanley J. Morrow" ~ A view of Yankton's riverfront after the flood of March 1881.
Under the weight of snow, a tree falls next to a car in Asheville, North Carolina

In the United States, the National Weather Service defines a blizzard as a severe snow storm characterized by strong winds causing blowing snow that results in low visibilities.


Snow comprises individual ice crystals that grow while suspended in the atmosphere—usually within clouds—and then fall, accumulating on the ground where they undergo further changes.

Norwegian train plowing through drifted snow
Extratropical cyclonic snowstorm, February 24, 2007—(Click for animation.)
Frontal snowsquall moving toward Boston, Massachusetts
Cold northwesterly wind over Lake Superior and Lake Michigan creating lake-effect snowfall
Freshly fallen snowflakes
An early classification of snowflakes by Israel Perkins Warren
An animation of seasonal snow changes, based on satellite imagery
New York City during a 2016 blizzard, which
 produced local wind gusts up to 42 mph and dropped 27.5 in of snow, breaking the city's one-day snowfall record.
Snow-covered trees in Kuusamo, Finland
Fresh snow beginning to metamorphose: The surface shows wind packing and sastrugi. In the foreground are hoar frost crystals, formed by refrozen water vapor emerging to the cold surface.
Firn—metamorphosed multi-year snow
Snow drifts forming around downwind obstructions
A powder snow avalanche
Snowmelt-induced flooding of the Red River of the North in 1997
Snow pit on the surface of a glacier, profiling snow properties where the snow becomes increasingly dense with depth as it metamorphoses towards ice
Snowfall and snowmelt are parts of the Earth's water cycle.
Traffic stranded in a 2011 Chicago snowstorm.
Winter conditions on Ontario Highway 401 in Toronto due to a snowsquall.
Deicing an aircraft during a snow event
Satellite view of the Indus River, showing snow in the Himalayas, which feeds it, and agricultural areas in Pakistan that draw on it for irrigation.
Extreme snow accumulation on building roofs
Icings resulting from meltwater at the bottom of the snow pack on the roof, flowing and refreezing at the eave as icicles and from leaking into the wall via an ice dam.
Alpine skiing.
Algae, Chlamydomonas nivalis, that thrive in snow form red areas in the suncups on this snow surface
Arctic fox, a predator of smaller animals that live beneath the snow
Trucks plowing snow on a highway in Missouri
Airport snow-clearing operations include plowing and brushing
Swiss low-profile, train-mounted snowplow
Bivouac of Napoleon's Grande Armée, during the winter retreat from Moscow
Finnish ski troops during the invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union
Army vehicles coping with snow during the Battle of the Bulge of World War II.
Norwegian military preparations during the 2009 Cold Response exercise
Navy SEALs training for winter warfare at Mammoth Mountain, California.

While heavy snowfall often occurs during blizzard conditions, falling snow is not a requirement, as blowing snow can create a ground blizzard.

Winter weather advisory

Hazardous weather statement issued by Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) of the National Weather Service in the United States when one or more types of winter precipitation—snow, rain and snow mixed, freezing rain, sleet, graupel, etc.—presenting a hazard, but not expected to produce accumulations meeting storm warning criteria (usually below 10 cm / 4 inches), are forecast within 36 hours of the expected onset of precipitation or are occurring in the advisory's coverage area.

Cerro de Punta, Puerto Rico's highest peak, and its TV transmission towers

Prior to the 2008-09 winter storm season, there was the snow advisory, specific for when snow was the only hazard expected in the advised area, the sleet advisory, specific for when sleet was the only hazard expected in the advised area, the blowing snow advisory, specific for when blowing snow was the only hazard expected in the advised area, and the Snow and Blowing Snow Advisory, specific for when stable snow and blowing snow were the only hazards expected in the advised area.

Blowing snow advisory

Issued by the National Weather Service of the United States when wind driven snow reduces surface visibility and possibly hampers traveling.

Blowing snow may be falling snow, or snow that has already accumulated but is picked up and blown by strong winds.

Utqiagvik, Alaska

Borough seat and largest city of the North Slope Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska.

English (Welcome to Barrow) and Iñupiaq (Paġlagivsigiñ Utqiaġvigmun) (2004)
Sod house remains in Utqiagvik
Will Rogers – Wiley Post Memorial
Iñupiaq child at Point Barrow circa 1960s
Traditional clothing at Iñupiat Heritage Center in Utqiagvik
Utqiagvik Milepost
Aerial photograph of Utqiagvik, Alaska
Probable fogbow in Utqiagvik
Homes along the Arctic Ocean in Utqiagvik, Alaska
Utqiagvik sea ice, July 2006, 2007
Homes built on pilings
A typical home in Utqiagvik, Alaska
Blanket Toss during a Nalukataq in Utqiagvik
Artificial turf field of Barrow High School football team
Barrow High School
The front entrance of the KBRW studios
Alaska Airlines Terminal at Wiley Post–Will Rogers Memorial Airport
Sign and facilities of the Point Barrow Long Range Radar Site
Alaska Airlines 737-400 combi aircraft at Post–Rogers Airport in December 2007. Note that it is twilight; the sun does not rise in December, but gets close enough to the horizon to illuminate.

Although Utqiagvik rarely records the lowest temperatures statewide during cold waves, extremely low wind chill and "white out" conditions from blowing snow are very common.

Distant Early Warning Line

System of radar stations in the northern Arctic region of Canada, with additional stations along the north coast and Aleutian Islands of Alaska , in addition to the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland.

A rough map of the three warning lines. From north to south: the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, Mid-Canada Line, and Pinetree Line.
Map of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line
POW-2, now Oliktok Long Range Radar Site
The LeTourneau snow train in Alaska
DEW line station formerly at Point Lay, Alaska.
A DEW station in western Greenland is visible in the distance beyond the snow-drifted equipment pallets in the foreground of this photograph.
An Atlantic barrier WV-2 and the radar picket destroyer escort USS Sellstrom (DER-255) off Newfoundland in 1957

Drifting snow was a constant menace.


A hybrid Frontal-Lake Effect Snowsquall hitting Toronto, Canada during rush hour.
Frontal snowsquall moving toward Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Rapidly deteriorating weather conditions during snowsqualls often lead to traffic accidents.
Winter conditions on Ontario Highway 401 in Toronto due to a snowsquall.

A snowsquall, or snow squall, is a sudden moderately heavy snowfall with blowing snow and strong, gusty surface winds.

Esperanza Base

Permanent, all-year-round Argentine research station in Hope Bay, Trinity Peninsula (in Graham Land on the Antarctic Peninsula).

Esperanza Base seen from Hope Bay

These winds can exceed 250 km/h, leading to blowing snow and reduced visibility.

Ablation zone

Ablation zone or ablation area refers to the low-altitude area of a glacier or ice sheet below firn with a net loss in ice mass due to melting, sublimation, evaporation, ice calving, aeolian processes like blowing snow, avalanche, and any other ablation.

Snow squall warning


A snow squall warning (SAME code: SQW) is a bulletin issued by Environment Canada's Meteorological Service of Canada and the National Weather Service in the United States to warn population of two types of snow events reducing visibility in blowing snow: lake effect snow squalls and frontal snow squalls.