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Avalanche-Lightning: Which would win in a battle outside the rink?

NOAA and CAIC experts weigh in
avalanche lightning weather
Posted at 5:04 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 00:37:29-04

Avalanche-Lightning.

While it’s typically a weather combo we hear about in the spring in Colorado, with heavy snow in the mountains and storms on the plains, we’re looking at both in mid-June this year.

One of the teams will come out of the Stanley Cup Final victorious – but which would win if the two weather phenomena came together in a battle outside the rink?

It just so happens there are plenty of experts in Colorado who are much better at breaking down the X’s and O’s in that matchup: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) meteorologist Kari Bowen and Colorado Avalanche Information Center Director Ethan Greene.

The National Weather Service in Boulder made clear Wednesday afternoon that, “The threat of Lightning in Denver is nearly zero through tonight.”

Quips aside, we started with Bowen and Greene asking how common avalanche and lightning are in Colorado.

Who wins in a fight, an avalanche or a lightning bolt? NOAA, CAIC weigh in

“We document about 5,000 per year, and we suspect that is probably less than 10% of what happens,” Greene said of avalanches.

“One of the ways we quantify lightning is, unfortunately, by injuries or fatalities across the United States year after year,” said Bowen. “Right now, Colorado actually is tied for third for highest lightning deaths with North Carolina and Arizona.”

But just how dangerous are they? The Bolts get the first go.

“Lightning is actually hotter than the surface of the sun, which can reach temperatures up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit when it strikes,” Bowen said.

Greene said avalanches often reach speeds of 40 miles per hour.

“Getting upwards of 60 or 80 mph happens, and there have been documented cases of avalanches running well over 1000 mph,” Greene said.

OK, OK. So the big question – who would win in a fight between an avalanche and a bolt of lightning?

“They’re both dangerous in their very own ways. And I know the Colorado Avalanche Information Center can attest to this,” said Bowen. “But avalanches, when they get released or when they move, they are very, very fast. Lightning can also be fast and deadly as well, so they both have their own aspects. So that’s a tough question.”

“I really don’t know,” laughed Greene. “Both of those sort of come in all shapes and sizes, so that’s kind of beyond my expertise to predict that.”

All right, so no real final answer here even from the trained scientists.

It looks like they’ll have to settle it on the ice.

You can watch the full Stanley Cup Final on Denver7, will full analysis from our sports and news teams throughout the series.