Snow and Tornados
Date: Summer 2013
Can snow form in a tornado?
Probably not. Tornados form in warmer air systems and they are an outcome of a rotating vortex in a thunderstorm.
David R. Cook
Atmospheric and Climate Research Program
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory
Short story, probably no. Your question is certainly valid in that tornadoes develop hail.
Hail develops inside a tornado because the ice crystals of a droplet are wet. They undergo a freezing and re-wetting cycle until the weight of the layered hail ball is greater than the upward draft may support.
Snow, as snow flakes, do not form inside of a tornado because of the warm air generating the energy of the tornado. However, snowstorms and twisters do interact.
A snowstorm deposits snow and develops the tornado before the snow melts from the warmer air of the twister. This is a very quickly developing tornado and a very rare occurrence. The development usually is near or on a slope in the mountain regions where these temperature differences may be most transient. These are very fast to form and fast to dissipate.
It is much more often to have snow after a tornado, when the cold front passes and temperatures fall.
On April 19, 2013, a highly unusual snowstorm developed a tornado in Chicago. Chicago is in relatively flat terrain. This was covered by the major news media.
There is an absolutely stunning photograph of snow debris in a funnel at:
Thank you for a very interesting question! Peter E. Hughes, Ph.D. Milford, NH
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Update: November 2011