If you are from a place where it snows during the winter season, like the mountainous regions of the United States or the Northeastern area, you are probably lucky enough to know about snow days. If you have never experienced a snow day, you probably don’t know what you’re missing when a snowfall closes the school and how fun snowball fights are. But is snow just fun and games all the time? Read more about snow below.
The Water Cycle
Before talking specifically about snow, it’s important to understand the water cycle. There are four different parts of the water cycle. The four parts are evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection.
First, Evaporation is when a liquid turns into a gas and goes up into the clouds. Water is often referred to as water vapor during this process.
Next, Condensation is when that water vapor turns back into a liquid. This happens in the clouds.
Then, Precipitation is when the water is realized from the clouds. Snow is one type of precipitation you will see. Snow is created by many droplets of frozen water vapor formed together. Other types are rain, hail, and sleet.
Finally, collection is when water is collected in the oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams. Most water will soak into the ground and will collect as underground water.
How Is Snow Formed?
If you can believe it, even rain starts as snow. As snow falls through the warm air, they become raindrops. To stay as snow, the air temperature has to be at or below the freezing temperature of 32 degrees (freezing point of water) or lower.
At lower temperatures, water vapor freezes directly into ice crystals. Snow forms when tiny ice crystals in clouds start to stick together and form snowflakes. These snowflakes come in all different shapes and sizes. If enough crystals of ice stick together, they will become heavy enough to fall to the ground as snow crystals. As the snow crystals fall to the ground, they clump together with other crystals to form snowflakes. Average snowflakes can have as many as 100 ice crystals. Every snowflake has a unique design because of the different crystals that come together to create the snowflake.
There are many different types of snow.
- Fluffy snow
- Wet snow
- Powdery snow
- And More
Two different things determine what type of snow will fall. The temperature and air moisture. The amount of liquid within the snow will make the snow heavier or lighter. The change in temperature from the sky to the ground changes the amount of liquid within the snow. If the temperature stays below freezing, the snow will remain cold, and there will not be much liquid in the snow, making it lighter. If it gets warmer throughout the all, there will be more liquid and the snow will become heavier.
A type of snow is lake-effect snow. It occurs when cold air from Canada moves across the open waters of the Great Lakes located in Ontario, Canada, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. As the cold air passes over the unfrozen waters, the moisture and warmth are brought into the lowest part of the atmosphere. This allows it to snow in an area where the air is often too dry.
Saltwater has a freezing temperature below 32 degrees. This freezing point makes it difficult for the water molecules to form solid crystals. So salt water can not form snow.
Snow cover is the amount of land covered by snow at any given time. The snow cover’s size depends on the amount of precipitation that falls as snow.
There are three types of winter storms.
- Blizzard- It is the most dangerous of the winter storms. The low temperatures, heavy snowfall, and high winds blow snow into drifts, making it hard for people to see more than a few yards in front of them. This can be called snow blindness.
- Heavy Snowstorm- This type of storm drops 4 or more inches in 12 hours or 6 or more inches in a 24-hour period. Strong winds may or may not accompany this type of storm. The wind will cause drifts and poor visibility.
- Ice Storm- This storm occurs when moisture falls from the clouds and freezes immediately when it hits the ground. Ice storms make driving, walking, and almost anything extremely hazardous.
Towns and cities in high altitudes often see more snow because of the low temperatures and since they are often closer to the precipitation and clouds. Snow melts slower on mountains and at high altitudes, which is why many hikers are hiking in the snow into the spring. At lower altitudes, snow melts too quickly, causing floods and other destructive issues.
Fun Snow Facts
Snow is one of the most exciting types of weather we get to experience in the United States. These are just a few fun facts you may not know!
- The highest snowfall recorded in 24 hours was in 1921 in Silver Lake, Colorado. The storm dropped 6.3 feet of snow onto the ground.
- Created in 2007, the largest snow sculpture was “Romantic Feelings.” It was 115ft tall and 656ft long.
- The world’s largest snowflake measured 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick. Someone found it in Fort Keogh, Montana, in 1887.
- The number 8,962 is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most snow angels made at one time.
- The two most popular winter sports are skiing and snowboarding.
- You can lower the melting point of ice by adding salt.
- Wind speed can turn nice fluffy powder into a dangerous wind slab.
These are just a few interesting facts about snow.