Author: Mary Knapp

It’s cold, the wind is blowing, and the snow is falling. Is it a blizzard? People commonly use the term “blizzard” for any heavy snowfall with strong winds. However, heavy snow isn’t the criteria for a blizzard. The National Weather Service uses the term only when winds are in excess of 35 mph, with cold temperatures and visibility less than 500 feet. This is the case regardless of how much snow ultimately accumulates. The name originated in the United States, but now has spread to other countries. In Antarctica, the name is given to strong winds off the ice cap, where an average wind speed of 107 miles per hour was once recorded over an 8-hour period. In the south of France, cold north winds with snow are also called the “blizard”, and are seen in December and January.

Low visibility (WDL archives)

Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library