AskDefine | Define blizzard

Dictionary Definition



1 a storm with widespread snowfall accompanied by strong winds [syn: snowstorm]
2 a series of unexpected and unpleasant occurrences; "a rash of bank robberies"; "a blizzard of lawsuits" [syn: rash]

User Contributed Dictionary



Origins Unknown. Possibly from blizzard, a surname dating back to the 1700's(?). The earliest known use of blizzard as a term was in the Estherville, Iowa, Northern Vindicator on 23 April 1870. One week later it appeared again in the same newspaper, only with the now common double-z spelling. Best evidence is that the word was coined in that area of Iowa some years prior to this use.
The blizzard surname possibly comes from the blizzard one, dating back to the 1500's(?).
The word blizzard was used (not in relation to the weather) in America in the early 1800s. It meant a "sharp blow or knock; a shot" (usually gunfire) and later shifted meaning.


  • /ˈblɪz.əd/, /"blIz.@d/


blizzard (blizzards)
  1. A severe snowstorm, especially with strong winds and greatly reduced visibility.
  2. A large amount of paperwork.
  3. A large number of similar things, such as a blizzard of political ads.


severe snowstorm
  • Chinese traditional/simplified: 暴風雪,暴风雪 (bào fēng xuě), 大風雪, 大风雪 (dà fēng xuě),
  • Finnish: myräkkä, lumimyrsky
  • Hungarian: hóvihar
  • Polish: zamieć, zadymka, śnieżyca, blizzard
figuratively:large amount of paperwork
  • Chinese traditional/simplified: 大量,大量 (dà liàng)
  • Finnish: vuori (mountain)
  • Polish: nawał, nawała
large number of similar things
  • Finnish: vyöry (landslide)
  • Polish: nawał, nawała

Extensive Definition

A blizzard is a severe winter storm condition characterized by low temperatures, strong winds, and heavy blowing snow. Blizzards are formed when a high pressure system, also known as a ridge, interacts with a low pressure system; this results in the advection of air from the high pressure zone into the low pressure area. The term blizzard is sometimes misused by news media to describe a large winter storm that does not actually satisfy official blizzard criteria.


Even though some areas are more likely to experience blizzards than others, it is possible for a blizzard to occur in any location where there is snow and high winds. In North America, blizzards are particularly common to the extreme portions of the Northeastern United States, the Northern Great Plains in the United States, Atlantic Canada, and the Canadian Prairie Provinces. Blizzard conditions also occur frequently in the mountain ranges in western North America, however since these regions are sparsely populated they are often not reported.


According to Environment Canada, a winter storm must have winds of 40 km/h (25 mph) or more, have snow or blowing snow, visibility less than 1 km (about 5⁄8 mile), a wind chill of less than −25 °C (−13 °F), and that all of these conditions must last for 4 hours or more before the storm can be properly called a blizzard.
In the United States, the National Weather Service defines a blizzard as sustained 35 mph (56 km/h) winds which leads to blowing snow and causes visibilities of ¼ mile or less, lasting for at least 3 hours. Temperature is not taken into consideration when issuing a blizzard warning, but the nature of these storms are such that cold air is often present when the other criteria are met. Other countries, such as the UK, have a lower threshold: the Met Office defines a blizzard as "moderate or heavy snow" combined with a mean wind speed of 30 mph (48 km/h) and visibility below 650 feet (200 m).
When there are blizzard conditions but no snow falling, meteorologists call this a ground blizzard because all the snow is already present at the surface of the earth and is simply being blown by high winds. Ground blizzards require large expanses of open and relatively flat land with a sufficient amount of accumulated and loosely packed powdery snow to be blown around.
The origin of the word "blizzard" is believed to be a German settler describing a storm to an Estherville, Iowa, newspaper reporter in Marshall, a small town in southwestern Minnesota.


An extreme form of blizzard is a whiteout, when downdrafts coupled with snowfall become so severe that it is impossible to distinguish the ground from the air. People caught in a whiteout can quickly become disoriented, losing their sense of direction. This poses an extreme risk to the aviation community when flying at the altitude of the storm or navigating an airport, severe ice accretion on the wings may also result.


The Word 'Blizzard' was first used in 1870 during a severe snowstorm in Iowa and Minnesota, by an Estherville, Iowa newspaper. The word has its origins in boxing, referring to a volley of punches in Boxing. The word was first used by the USA signal corps weather service in 1876.

Notable blizzards

The Great Blizzard of 1888 paralyzed the Northeastern United States for several days. In that blizzard, 400 people were killed, 200 ships were sunk, and snowdrifts towered 15 to 50 feet high. Earlier that year, the Great Plains states were struck by the Schoolhouse Blizzard that left children trapped in schoolhouses and killed 235 people.
The Armistice Day Blizzard in 1940 caught many people off guard with its rapid and extreme temperature change. It was 60 °F in the morning, but by noon, it was snowing heavily. Some of those caught unprepared died by freezing to death in the snow and some while trapped in their cars. Altogether, 154 people died in the Armistice Day Blizzard. Unpredictable storms such as this one can come without much warning, causing damage and destruction to humans and infrastructure.
One hundred five years to the day (March 12) after the Great Blizzard of 1888, a massive blizzard, nicknamed the Storm of the Century, hit the U.S in 1993. It dropped snow over 26 states and reached as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico. In many southern U.S. areas, such as parts of Alabama, more snow fell in this storm than ever fell in an entire winter. Highways and airports were closed across the U.S. As a wider effect, the storm spawned 15 tornadoes in Florida. When the storm was over, it affected at least half of the U.S. population; 270 people died and 48 were reported missing at sea.


External links

blizzard in Afrikaans: Blizzard
blizzard in Czech: Blizard
blizzard in Danish: Snestorm
blizzard in German: Blizzard
blizzard in Spanish: Nevasca
blizzard in Basque: Bisutsa
blizzard in French: Blizzard (météorologie)
blizzard in Korean: 블리저드
blizzard in Italian: Blizzard
blizzard in Lithuanian: Pūga
blizzard in Dutch: Blizzard (meteorologie)
blizzard in Japanese: 吹雪
blizzard in Norwegian: Snøstorm
blizzard in Norwegian Nynorsk: Snøstorm
blizzard in Polish: Zamieć śnieżna
blizzard in Portuguese: Nevão
blizzard in Russian: Метель
blizzard in Simple English: Blizzard
blizzard in Slovak: Blizard
blizzard in Slovenian: Blizzard
blizzard in Swedish: Snöstorm
blizzard in Chinese: 暴风雪

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

avalanche, black squall, blow, crystal, driven snow, equinoctial, flake, flurry, gale, granular snow, half a gale, heavy blow, hurricane, igloo, ill wind, line squall, line storm, mantle of snow, mogul, slosh, slush, snow, snow banner, snow bed, snow blanket, snow blast, snow fence, snow flurry, snow roller, snow slush, snow squall, snow wreath, snow-crystal, snowball, snowbank, snowbridge, snowcap, snowdrift, snowfall, snowfield, snowflake, snowland, snowman, snowscape, snowshed, snowslide, snowslip, snowstorm, squall, squall line, storm, storm wind, stormy winds, strong wind, tempest, tempestuous wind, thick squall, thundersquall, tropical cyclone, typhoon, ugly wind, violent blow, wet snow, white squall, whole gale, williwaw, wind-shift line, windstorm
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