Can Industrial Plants Create Snow Patterns? The National Weather Service Says It Happened In Nebraska

An operations officer from the National Weather Service said that two industrial plants have had an effect on the weather, in a white Christmas kind of way.

A sliver of Nebraska got added snowfall thanks to a couple of plants disrupting a local weather pattern, creating more snow in a system that was dropping flakes sporadically.

Brian Barjenbruch, the science and operations officer for the NWS office in Valley, said Monday’s weather system got a boost when steam from the Norfolk industrial plants rose into the icy clouds, adding moisture and warmth, spawning thick snow.

The combination of steam rising into falling ice created a solid snowfall, with some flakes up to an inch in diameter in the eastern part of the state.

"It's not uncommon. The cases I've seen, it takes really specific atmospheric conditions," Barjenbruch said to the Lincoln Journal-Star. Barjenbruch compared Monday's phenomena to lake-effect snow most commonly seen in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Just recently in western Pennsylvania, some people saw heavy and blinding snow in similar ways when the Pittsburgh plants emitted steam into the air, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Barjenbruch said the NWS contacted local officials in Norfolk and determined that the unusual system originated near the plants, where the steam climbed into the sky.  

"We've already got moisture in the air. We've already got ice crystals in the clouds. Those three are the main ingredients for producing snow. The addition of more moisture (from the steam) is helping it snow," Barjenbruch said.

On normal days, the steam simply evaporates into thin air, Barjenbruch said. This man-made weather pattern also showed up on radar just like natural systems.

 After the system developed and dropped snow by midday Monday, the NWS tweeted: “It's been confirmed that this snow band is originating from 2 plants in Norfolk. The steam produced there is essentially acting to add moisture and warmth to the clouds creating the snow. Had reports of large flake and up to 1in. If you live in that area how much have you seen?”

A cold-weather pattern developed over the weekend in Nebraska, creating icy roads and slick conditions that led to 49 crashes tended to by the Nebraska State Patrol.

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