Industrial Plants Are Making It Snow In Nebraska This Week

Industrial Plants Are Making It Snow In Nebraska This Week

Tired: Lake-effect snow. Wired: Industrial processing plant snow.

On Monday, Nebraskans downwind of Norfolk, a small town northwest of Omaha, were treated to two inches of snow. The swath of snow came courtesy of industrial plants that sit on Norfolk’s east side, and it picked up again on Tuesday morning sending industry-made flakes as far south as Omaha.

The National Weather Service first noticed the snow band on radar. Images showed precipitation basically coming out of nowhere on Monday evening. But nowhere in this case turned out to be the industrial plants near Norfolk, which include a steel manufacturing plant and an ethanol processing facility that are likely responsible for the artificial flakes.

This sites put off vast amounts of steam and exhaust. As the plumes rose into the atmosphere, it seems they added heft to clouds. National Weather Service weather balloon data also shows that there was an inversion—a meteorological phenomenon where it’s warmer in the upper atmosphere than the lower atmosphere—which essentially capped how high steam could rise. Add in temperatures in the mid-20s, and you have ideal industrial snow conditions.

The process is similar to lake-effect snow, which occurs when cold air moves over relatively warm open water and pull up vast quantities of moisture. But in this case, the source is much more isolated and the impacts are even more so, with a band of snow only a few miles wide.

This isn’t the first instance of unintentionally manufactured snow being caught on radar, nor is the first occurrence of radar capturing some wild weather. Power plants caused it to any more real.