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5 kinds of weird winter weather


Photo by Mylène licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Find out about five unusual weather wonders that only take place during winter!

Frost quakes

Looking up at frosted tree branches.
Photo by kismihok licensed CC BY-SA

You won’t see this rare winter weather, but you will hear it. BOOM! That’s the sound of a frost quake.

This natural event happens when temperatures drop really far, really quickly and water in the ground freezes immediately.

Due to the pressure build-up, part of the frozen earth cracks near the surface, and this creates a loud boom.

Snow devils

Snownado caught in action.
Photo by Heinz Petelin licensed CC0 via Wikimedia

A snow devil (or snownado) happens when fine, dry snow is picked up from the ground by strong winds to create a snowy column that whirls around and around through the air. If you see one, you're lucky — they're pretty uncommon because they need very special weather conditions to form.

Frost flowers

Frost flower in the autumn leaves.
Photo by Superchadd licensed public domain

Frost flowers are fragile ice sculptures that form during the wintertime. They are created on cold nights when the ground is still wet.

As the temperature drops during the night, water inside the plant's stem begins to freeze, causing the plant’s stem to split apart. The water then freezes instantly when it hits the cold, night air forming hin ribbon-like layers of ice  that look like beautiful frosty petals.

Snow rollers

Close-up of a snow roller.
Photo by Mylène licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Snow rollers or snow doughnuts look a lot like snowballs except they’re hollow in the middle. They only form when the ground is covered with ice that has a fresh layer of sticky snow on top.

Then a steady wind must be strong enough to blow chunks of snow along the ground. As they roll, more snow gets picked up on along the way, and the snowy spirals are formed. It’s similar to how you make a giant snowball by rolling it along the ground.

Sun pillars

Orange and pink sun pillar in distance.
Photo by Julie Falk licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Sun pillars are rays of bright light that stretch up to the sky during a sunrise or sunset. The orange shafts of light form when sunlight reflects off millions of falling ice crystals. Sun pillars shine just above the sun and usually fade within an hour.

Sometimes they look so strange that people think they are light beams coming from a UFO. So it’s common to have a few reports of an alien aircraft in the area when a sun pillar appears. While sun pillars aren’t the work of aliens, they are definitely an out-of-this-world winter sight!