What is a blizzard and how does it occur

Strong winds and snowfall

A blizzard is a snow, ice, or hail storm with strong intensity normally generated in high mountain areas. They are very dangerous and throughout history they have caused several disasters in some large cities. They have also caused the death of many mountaineers and climbers.

If you want to know the characteristics of blizzards and how they form, keep reading 🙂

Features of the blizzard

Blizzards in the mountains

Blizzards are also known as snow, snow, or white wind. When a blizzard happens, temperatures are usually well below 0 degrees. One of their main characteristics and that makes them more dangerous are their strong winds. For mountaineers they can pose a risk of death, since they make visibility extremely difficult and temperatures drop too low.

During a blizzard, due to the strong wind, you can have thermal sensations of up to -20 degrees. Winds can be both sustained and gusty and arrive at speeds of 56 km / h or higher. Generally, blizzards last about 3 hours and visibility is reduced to less than half a kilometer.

What Causes a Blizzard?

Blizzards in the cities

Almost any place where frequent snowfall can be affected by a blizzard. It is more casual that it takes place in polar areas, regions close to it or in high mountains. Today, the areas where more blizzards are usually recorded are, for example, in United States and northern Arizona. In these places there is a low pressure system that moves south and if a high pressure system develops through the Great Basin, a blizzard will occur.

Blizzards typically develop on the northwest side of a severe storm system. The big difference between high and low pressure is what makes the winds strong. We remember that the winds are generated through the pressure difference between one point and another. The more difference there is in that atmospheric pressure, the stronger the winds will be.

On the other hand, the water that remains frozen in the atmosphere remains forming crystals that adhere to others. As the ice crystals unite, they form snowflakes up to six points. Also, when the snow falls and the winds are so strong, visibility is cut in half.

In short, you could say that a blizzard is a bad combination of snow and wind.

Dangerous effects

Wind and loss of visibility due to snow

Obviously, blizzards are dangerous depending on where you are. If you are at home, you will be protected. But if it catches you being abroad it will be dangerous. If you do not carry protection with you, the wind chill can cause hypothermia and, therefore, death.

If you go inside a vehicle, circulation becomes completely impossible. Visibility is reduced to 0,40 kilometers and gusts of wind lash against the car. This can cause the driver to become disoriented and end up in an accident.

When blizzards are very intense they are capable of causing failures in electrical circuits and causing blackouts. This happens because high winds and heavy snow damage the wiring.

The blizzard in the mountains

Blizzard on a mountain climb

We are going to dedicate a complete section to describe the whole situation of blizzards in the mountains. As mentioned before, many mountaineers, hikers, and climbers have died from them. When temperatures they turn below -15 degrees and visibility is reduced, the situation becomes very dangerous.

When you are in high mountains, the wind hits your body with hardly any obstacles unlike in cities. Keep in mind that in cities we have buildings that cut off the wind's circulation. In addition, in the mountain there are numerous elements that are not attached to the ground and can hit us. For example, the ice grains that form, small branches and stones that are moved by the wind.

When a hiker is climbing a mountain and is surprised by a blizzard, there are some effects that interfere with the journey.


The first thing you feel when you are climbing a mountain and are surprised by a blizzard is euphoria. We can feel motivated to move up in the face of the difficulties that this entails. This can make let's not see well the dangerousness of the situation.

Loss of visibility

If at the time we are climbing the mountain we are not wearing protective glasses, the materials mentioned above can hit us. If it hits us in the eye, it can cause serious problems.


In a mountain there are narrower places where balance plays a fundamental role. The strong gusts of wind caused by the blizzard can make us unbalance and fall. Also, if it is continuously affecting our face and eyes, it makes us more impatient and lose concentration. This can lead us to make mistakes. It is highly recommended not to turn your back to the wind so that the backpack does not overcome us due to its weight.


With the euphoria we felt at the beginning and the lack of visibility, we are building confidence. This is because we have in front of us a challenge to overcome. However, not having good visibility, we lose the specific reference points. You can come to believe that you are heading down the right path and be wrong. The reduced visibility makes us not have references and, in the long run, fall into a stage of demoralization.

Psychological burden

If we are fully in a blizzard, the attitude we have at that moment is conditional to get out of it. It is possible that time can play a trick on us. We can think that several minutes can become hours. In this situation you have to have a strong determination.


With the low temperatures and the gusts of wind, hypothermia appears in a short time. The clothes seem not to heat, even though we have thousands of layers. If we are exposed to the cold, our body will reduce its temperature to dangerous levels. If the equipment is not of quality or you are wet with sweat, the heat loss will be faster.

Before a blizzard on a mountain, the best decision will be to go down. No matter where you go down, as long as the altitude is reduced, the danger is reduced.

With this information you will be more prepared to face a blizzard.

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