GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — There are several different severe weather events that take place during the winter months. Let’s talk about ice storms.
Ice storms are most common along the East Coast and usually occur during January and February. In order for an ice storm to take place, there must be at least ¼ inch of ice accumulation on surfaces. As with most winter storm impacts, ice storms are created by a passing low pressure system and cold air.
During the winter season, a low pressure carries precipitation across portions of the United States while bumping into either cooler or warmer air. With warm air interfering with the precipitation falling, freezing rain forms and ice accumulation is the result.
Imagine the atmosphere is made of several columns of air. Each column has a different temperature profile, meaning some columns contain warm air while others only contain cold air. The temperature profile of snow only contains cold air, but with freezing rain, warmer air cuts through a column of cold air, melting the snowflakes as they fall into raindrops. The raindrops then pass through a sliver of cold air once again before making it to the surface.
So, a region that experienced an ice storm primarily saw freezing rain over a longer stretch of time. When you see a little pink or purple popping up on the radar, that’s a good indication of some freezing rain falling or sleet.