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A blizzard is a severe weather condition characterized by low temperatures and strong winds (greater than 35 mph) bearing a great amount of snow, either falling or blowing.

In order to be classified as a blizzard, as opposed to merely a winter storm, the weather must meet several conditions. The storm must decrease visibility to a quarter of a mile for 3 consecutive hours, include snow or ice as precipitation, and have wind speeds of at least 32mph (7 or more on the Beaufort Wind Scale).

According to Environment Canada a blizzard must have winds of 40 km/h or more, have snow or blowing snow, visibility less than 1 km and a windchill of less than -25 degrees celsius. All of these conditions must last for 4 hours or more.

When these conditions persist after snow has stopped falling, it is called a ground blizzard.

An extreme form of blizzard is a whiteout, where the 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 up and down as well as their sense of direction. Severe blizzards can also occur in conjunction with arctic cyclones.

The word blizzard is a modern one of unknown origin; but it is likely from the surname "Blizard." It was first widely used after the great American winter storm now known as the "Blizzard of 1880." Certain types of blizzards in the northeastern United States are colloquially known as Nor'easters. Some believe the origin of the word "blizzard" is from it's original use of scattered musket fire. An 1820 journalist was the first to coin this word.


precipitation   water which falls from the clouds towards the ground, especially as rain or snow
whiteout   a weather condition in which snow and clouds change the way light is reflected so that only very dark objects can be seen
downdraft   A strong downward current of air
disoriented   Unable to find the correct way or place to go
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