“Nuke Effect” Snow? Pennsylvania power plant spawns “nuclear” snow plume

Just when I think I've seen everything.

Meteorologists have known for decades that waste plumes...the vented heat and moisture from power plants can produce clouds and showers downwind.

Now this phenomenon has been captured by Doppler radar.

"Nuke Effect" snow.

It appears Pennsylvania's Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant near Shippingport generated enough waste heat and moisture in this bitter air mass to create a "nuke effect" snow plume downwind. Up to an inch of snow was reported under the narrow, localized snow plume.

Here's the Doppler radar image from Pittsburgh showing the plume drifting downwind.

Image: Pittsburgh NWS doppler radar via Climate Central

How does this happen?

Enough additional heat and moisture is injected into the bitterly cold air overhead that clouds and snow crystals form in the plume. As the winds blow the plume downwind, the snowflakes fall out of the cloud base, leaving a narrow swath of snow underneath.

Kudos to Climte Central's Andrew Freedman for picking up on this remarkable radar image. He elaborates here.

You've probably heard of lake-effect snow and ocean-effect snow, but now you should add "nuclear snow" to the list of strange winter weather phenomena. As the Midwest and East shivers under a bitterly cold air mass, waste heat given off from the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant near Shippingport, Pa., generated a narrow band of snow. Up to an inch of snow fell as a result of the steam billowing from the stacks.

The snowfall was also the result of steam vented from the Bruce Mansfield Generating Station, which is a coal-burning power plant that is located next to the nuclear facility in Shippingport.

Not to worry though, this snow should not contain elevated levels of radiation, and poses no danger to public health.

Pretty cool stuff.


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