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Freezing Rain With Above Freezing Temperatures

Contributed by James Bria, CompuWeather Sr. Forensic Meteorologist and Weather Expert

CompuWeather meteorologists have seen numerous instances when freezing rain occurred despite an above freezing air temperature. While this doesn’t happen often, our forensic meteorologists are familiar with this unusual situation. Typically when this occurs, the available weather data doesn’t indicate that freezing rain actually fell. In these types of cases, using an experienced meteorologist is vital to discover the truth.

Freezing rain is defined as liquid water which freezes instantly on surfaces. This occurs when snow falls through the atmosphere while the temperature is at or below freezing. The snow then reaches an atmospheric layer where the temperature is above 32 degrees F. This causes the snow to melt and change over to plain rain. As the rain continues to fall to the surface, it reaches a thin layer of the atmosphere just above the ground where the temperature once again dips below freezing. Sometimes that layer is thin enough so the rain does not have the chance to freeze before it hits the surface. Since the surface is also below freezing, the rain will freeze on ground contact, resulting in ice. With only a very thin layer of subfreezing air just above the ground, the recorded air temperature would be above freezing. Reporting stations may report plain rain as opposed to freezing rain, despite the fact that freezing rain actually fell and caused a layer of ice.

Without the use of a meteorologist, you may not know to look for this situation or be able to tell when it has actually occurred. CompuWeather meteorologists are well versed in events like these, as well as all types of unusual weather scenarios. Why not utilize the expertise of CompuWeather meteorologists to always be well informed?