When winter weather is expected, people often use the terms snow and snow showers interchangeably.
However, there are some distinct differences between snow and snow showers.
It is important to understand these differences so that you can adequately prepare for storms and speak to others accurately about the weather conditions you are experiencing.
There are some ways that you can easily determine the difference between snow and snow showers, and we will discuss these in detail.
Let’s take a look at the difference between snow and snow showers.
Snow Vs. Snow Showers (What’s The Difference?)
The difference between snow and snow showers is that snow is an object and snow showers are a weather event.
When snow is falling from the sky the actual pieces of snow that are falling are called snow.
This snow is made up of frozen water vapor and it will typically accumulate on the ground in large amounts.
The snow that is falling is considered to be an object that describes the frozen water vapor.
Snow showers, on the other hand, are the way to describe how the snow is falling from the sky.
It can snow at various rates, and these rates are often something that can determine the amount of snow that will accumulate and how bad a snowstorm can be.
The term, “snow showers,” typically refers to a smaller amount of snow or a slower rate of the snow falling.
Even though these terms are quite different there are many people who use them interchangeably.
Many people will say the word snow and refer to the event as opposed to referring to the object.
Overall, it is essential to understand the clear differences.
To make more sense of this, there are a few things that you will likely need to understand and consider.
Let’s look at a few more ways in which you can tell snow and snow showers apart.
When you are done with our guide, you will have a much greater understanding of how to describe the next weather event that comes to your town.
1. Duration Of Storm
The duration of the winter weather event that you are experiencing can help you determine how to refer to it as well.
We have already established that the word snow is typically used to describe the frozen water vapor that has fallen from the sky.
However, the term snowing is often used to describe the snow falling from the sky.
How will you know if you should use the term snowing, snowstorm, snow shower, or even blizzard?
The differences between these conditions can be difficult to discern, and until you spend quite a bit of time studying weather, you may never be able to pinpoint the exact description of your snow event accurately.
However, generally speaking, the longer you are experiencing snow, the more likely it is that you can say it is snowing.
Snow showers tend to be more intermittent.
They will come on, shower an area with snow, and then almost stop completely.
When it is snowing, you are going to be referring to a more prolonged period of snow.
There is no set time that will help you decide if you can use the term snow showers or snowing.
Instead, try starting with snow showers and then changing to the term snowing as the storm continues.
It can get confusing as to whether or not the snowing can then be called a snowstorm.
Snowstorms and blizzards tend to be of longer duration with heavier periods of snow and more accumulation in some areas.
Blizzards are typically paired with heavy winds.
If there is no wind, you are going to need to refer to the snow event in a different way.
Another term that people often use is snow flurry.
This is typically when just a few drops of snow are seen falling through the sky, but nothing is significant enough to call it a shower or a snowstorm of any kind.
2. Amount Of Snow
The amount of snow that is on the ground will be another distinction between snow and a snow shower.
Remember that if you have a pile of snow on your front lawn, you can simply say that there is an accumulation of snow.
However, while the snow is falling and accumulating, the proper way to refer to it would be that it is snowing and accumulating.
Most of the time, when you have gotten to the point of using the term snowing to describe snow accumulation, the accumulation will be more significant.
Most snow showers barely have any accumulation.
Since snow showers tend to start and stop, it can be quite difficult for any of the snow to pile up.
Over time, snow showers lead to some accumulation, but the rate is much slower and a bit more difficult to predict.
3. Snow On The Radar
One of the ways to calculate and predict any weather or natural event is to look at the radar.
For those who live in areas with lots of rain, you may be accustomed to looking at the radar and planning your day or events.
When it is snowing, or when there are just snow showers, you will be able to see the difference on the radar.
The two events will look quite different and even be shown as different colors on a Doppler radar image.
The snow shower would appear as a light or medium blue.
This helps to show that there is frozen material coming from the sky, but the duration may be fast, and the accumulation should not be all that much.
However, there will be much darker blue areas on the radar when it is snowing to show that the intensity has increased significantly.
The overall size of the weather event on the radar is going to be different as well.
Remember that we said snow showers are often intermittent and not going to last for an extended period of time.
You will be able to see these showers on the radar as they won’t cover the entire screen or picture of the radar.
When it is snowing, expect to see a blanket of blue color covering the entire radar screen.
This is really no different than when you look at the radar for a rainstorm or even if you are following a hurricane.
When rainstorms get red, yellow, and orange and cover large areas of the radar, they are considered to be more severe.
If it is snowing, the weather event is more severe than just a snow shower.
Which Is Worse: Snow Or Snow Showers?
Although we have established the fact that snow is the physical object that falls from the sky when people use the term snow, they are often referring to the act of snowing.
The term snowing or snow showers then get further confused by the way in which they are described and how long they last.
Typically speaking, snowing is worse than show showers.
This means that you will have more snow to clean up, and the overall conditions outside may be a bit rougher when you are dealing with snowing as opposed to snow showers.
However, this is not always the case.
Sometimes the way that snow showers fall and the temperatures that you may be experiencing outside can cause the event to be more dangerous or slippery.
You cannot always assume that longer periods of intense snow are going to be more dangerous.
The fact that it is snowing at all is something that all people need to watch out for.
Regardless of your ability to travel in the snow, be prepared for any type of snow event that is about to happen.
This is the only way to stay safe.
What Is Very Light Snowfall Called?
If it has just started to snow and there is barely any accumulation on the ground, it can be referred to as snow flurries.
When you look into your yard and see snow flurries, they will be very randomly scattered.
There is no real pattern to snow flurries.
The snow flurries will often melt as soon as they hit the ground since the ground is likely not quite as frozen when these flurries start.
With heavy snow, the accumulation rate is relatively quick, and therefore, the ground starts to pile up with snow, even if it is not all that cold yet.
Light snowfall is sometimes the indicator that a large storm is starting.
Other times, the light snowfall simply is a passing flurry that will not turn into a larger weather event.
Either way, it helps to know how to properly refer to these events.
What Is A Snow Squall, And How Long Does It Last?
A snow squall is an intense period of heavy snowfall.
The one thing that helps to make a snow squall easier to identify is the fact that it is so strong, and it comes on quite fast.
This is really the same for a rain squall as well.
The patch of the storm is extremely strong, but the duration is quite short.
Most of the time, a snow squall will only last about 30 minutes.
Once the squall has passed, you may find that the snow slows down to just a shower.
Overall, a snow squall is a weather event that you will want to pay close attention to.
This is not a situation that you will want to be in if you are trying to drive or get from one location to another.
The storm’s intensity makes it very difficult to get from point A to point B safely and securely.
Snow squalls can also mean that snow accumulates at a much faster rate.
One small squall can increase overall accumulation by quite a bit.
What Does “Snow Showers In The Forecast” Mean?
If you live in a state that experiences quite a bit of snow, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the forecast in the winter.
If you are not careful, you may plan a trip or a day out of the house when a major storm is hitting.
If this were to happen, chances are you will need to be very careful to avoid icy and wet conditions.
The forecast is typically a good indication of the type of weather event that you will get.
Many people wonder if they are going to need to cancel plans because the forecast shows snow showers.
The snow showers are not going to stop you from doing all that much.
If you need to run to the grocery store or your kids have school, chances are none of that will be impacted by snow showers.
Since we know that these showers will pass through the area relatively quickly, you won’t have to worry about the overall impact of the lower levels of accumulation.
However, if it truly starts snowing, which includes longer periods of snow and more accumulation, your plans may get altered.
In many areas where snow is a common feature of the winter, these snow showers can happen almost every day.
Until you get a bit more accustomed to the weather in the area, it may take you a while to really understand what type of weather will be restrictive and what will simply be an average day.
How To Prepare For Snow Showers
If you notice that there are some snow showers in your upcoming forecast, it can’t hurt to be prepared.
Most of the time, you will not need anything special to be ready for a snow shower.
However, in the winter months, it does make sense to have some extra supplies on hand in case you run into a stronger winter storm or a blizzard.
One of the major issues that can happen is homes can have trouble with their heating systems.
You may want to have your heating system looked at during the year to ensure that it can handle any issues that come up during a snowstorm.
In addition to the heating system, make sure you are prepared with whatever supplies you may need should you get too much snow accumulation.
Chances are you will need snow shovels, snowblowers, salt, and maybe even a scraper.
These tools can be used to remove ice and snow from walkways so that you can safely enter and exit the home.
There are times when getting out to the grocery store can be rather difficult.
It makes sense to have some non-perishable food handy so that you always have a stockpile should you need it.
The preparation needed for the winter months can be similar to the prep that homeowners go through during the hurricane season in other states.
The chance of you needing any of these supplies is probably rather slim.
However, ensuring that you are properly prepared for any situation is extremely important.
When it comes to your car, make sure that your tires are in good condition and that you have a scraper to get ice off the windshield if necessary.
If you have been in your office all day and walk out to your car only to find that it has been completely covered in a few inches of snow, you may have a lot of work to do before you can get home.
Stay vigilant in the winter, keep your mind on the forecast and ensure that you are always prepared for any situation that may come up in your area.
Hopefully, you can now see why the snow and snow showers terminology should not be used interchangeably.
When you refer to snow, you are talking about the frozen water vapor that falls from the sky.
However, snow showers are a way to describe the duration of the snow falling from the sky.
The snow showers only last a short period, and they are not going to accumulate much snow.
In addition, the snow will fall relatively slowly, and it will be intermittent.
If for some reason, it starts to snow for hours without stopping, then you can assume this is more than snow showers, and it is now snowing.
Living in an area with a lot of snow makes it important for you to know what you are talking about with these snow-related events.