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Air instability is also important to thunderstorm formation. It commonly occurs when warm air near the surface of the Earth rises due to convection--in the classic case, on a sunny summer day when the ground gets hot and warms up the air immediately above it. As the hot air rises, cooler air descends to replace it. If conditions are right, strong updrafts can form that quickly move the warm, humid surface air up to the higher reaches of the troposphere, where the water vapor in the air cools and condenses to fall as rain (or ice, if it's cold enough). These updrafts are a hallmark of thunderstorms--the strong upward motion of the air encourages the interactions between water droplets and ice crystals that can lead to lightning. In winter, cold surface air temperatures and reduced sunlight mean there's less surface heating, less convection, and thus fewer opportunities for thunderstorms.
All that having been said, several weather scenarios are known to favor winter electrical storms. One type of thundersnow is caused by lake-effect weather conditions of the sort encountered around the Great Lakes and Utah's Great Salt Lake. In this case relatively warm lake water takes the place of sun-warmed ground. When a cold front passes over the water, strong convection currents can start, sending the moist air near the surface up into the colder atmosphere above. Another type, which is more common, occurs when a warm front containing a large amount of moisture moves in between cool surface air and even colder air above, creating a region of strong convection currents that starts well above the ground. This type of thundersnow is reported fairly often in the central Great Plains (Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and Missouri) as well as parts of Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. A third type--I don't claim this list is exhaustive--sometimes occurs in mountainous regions when warm, moist air from a warm front is forced up a mountainside into the colder air at higher elevations.
Originally posted by Solarskye
Ah MAN!! I want some snow so bad. I'm here in the Tennessee valley and snow just doesn't like us here.