AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Factory effect snow is a unique snow type that isn’t often mentioned because of its subtlety, but it’s surprising how often it occurs near our factories in the surrounding area! We spoke with Aaron Ward, the Science and Operations Officer for the Amarillo National Weather Service to find out more about these occurrences and how it forms.

Factory effect snow, otherwise known as powerplant or industrial snow, is a snowfall event that is caused by factory steam condensing in a very cold atmosphere. This occurs near factory sources of heat and moisture, and it is usually associated with an arctic air mass moving through the area and a temperature inversion in the atmosphere.

The location and total amount of snowfall in an area is wind dependent, driven by wind speeds and direction. However, if wind speeds are too fast the factory steam could become scattered and will not be able to produce snowfall.

This phenomenon is not exceedingly rare, as it happens a few times a year here in the Texas Panhandle. It is difficult to report though, as the event is extremely localized and may go over areas that are unpopulated. Factory effect snow is also tough to spot on radar, only showing very shallow returns from doppler radar scans.

Check here for today’s Amarillo, Canyon, and High Plains regional forecast and weather radar.