Snow – almost everyone likes it, right? The real question is, ‘just how much do you know about snow?’ Have you ever wondered what makes up snow? Why is snow white? What’s the shape of a snowflake? What is a snowstorm and a blizzard? In this article on Snow facts, we are going to learn a multitude of things about snow that you might need for your school homework. So, without wasting time any further, let us begin with our facts list…
Snow Facts: 1-5 | What really is snow?
1. Snow is nothing more than ice in form of very tiny crystals. These tiny crystals are called snow crystals. Precipitation of snow is called snowfall.
2. Just how these snow crystals are formed totally depends on the atmospheric conditions that are present at the time of formation of crystals and what happens to those crystals as they precipitate or fall to the ground.
3. Snow or snow crystals are formed inside the clouds. When the cloud temperature falls to extremely low levels, the water vapors in the cloud freeze forming very tiny ice crystals or snow crystals.
4. During snowfall (precipitation of the tiny ice crystals or snow crystals), the snow may come down in different forms. Simply put, snow crystals be of different types.
5. There are essentially 4 different types of snow. They are:
Snow Facts: 6-10 | Snowflake explained
6. What are snowflakes? A single ice crystal is known as a snowflake. This singular ice crystal may actually grow big enough to fall in form of precipitation. However, a snowflake may also be formed through clubbing of several ice crystals.
7. A snowflake is always formed around dust particles present in supersaturated air masses. These dust particles attract droplets of water that are present in supercooled state. These water vapors then freeze into crystalline form.
8. These crystals can then grow by collecting water vapor on themselves. Because of extreme abundance of water vapors in clouds, the crystals thus formed can grow up to several hundreds of millimeters or micrometers.
9. These snowflakes that are formed can then move through various zones of humidity and temperature in the atmosphere, resulting in formation of complex shapes.
10. Snowflakes can depict a six-fold radial symmetry. This happens because the ice’s cystalline structure is six-fold. The six arms of a snowflake are known as dendrites. These dendrites then grow individually. Each dendrite can then grow arms, which too grow independently.
The gallery below shows a few of the several snowflakes photographed by Wilson Bentley between 1865 and 1931:
Snow Facts: 11-15 | Snowflake explained
11. It doesn’t however necessarily means that the snowflakes will grow symmetrically. Conditions like micro-environment in which snowflakes are formed and the mechanism in which the crystals grow often determine how fast a surface of a crystal will grow.
12. A snowflake’s shape is often determined by the humidity and temperature in which it is formed. Different snowflake shapes that are observed in different temperature are mentioned in the table below:
|Air temperature||Snowflake shape|
|-3°C||Flat and thin crystals known as Planar Crystals|
|-8°C||Needles, Prisms or Hollow Columns|
|-22°C||Plate-like but with dendritic or branched features|
13. Also remember that the saturation degree will determine whether the snowflakes will become columnar or plate-like.
14. In total, 80 different shapes of snowflakes have been identified so far. All these different shapes are segregated into 8 major categories which are:
- Needle crystals
- Columnar crystals
- Plate crystals
- Combination of plate and columnar crystals
- Columnar crystals having extended side panes
- Rimed crystal
- Germ of snow crystal
- Irregular snow crystal
15. During snowfall, large enough snow crystals can fall individually as single ice crystals. However, several ice crystals can actually cluster or club together to become heavy enough to fall. So, snowflakes can be singular or clusters of ice crystals.
Snow Facts: 16-20 | Hoarfrost explained
16. Hoarfrost is something different. It is a type of snow in which ice crystals get deposited on those surfaces that have temperature lower than surrounding air’s frost point.
17. In scenarios like this, moisture will convert directly into solid from the vapor state by bypassing the liquid phase.
18. In hoarfrost, ice crystals are generally interlocking and they will form on objects that have small diameter.
19. Hoarfrost is usually found on leaf edges, plant stems, tree branches, poles, wires etc. One of the most important criteria for hoarfrost formation is that the surface on which it will be formed should be exposed to air freely.
20. Hoarfrost is often called by different names depending on where it is formed. The names are given in the table below:
|Air hoar||Hoarfrost deposits on surfaces like wires, plant stems, tree branches etc.|
|Surface hoar||These are ice crystals with appearance of ferns and are deposited on surfaces that are already frozen or on ice or snow.|
|Depth hoar||These are faceted crystals that gradually grew large inside cavities present beneath dry snow surfaces or surface of banks.|
|Crevasse hoar||These are crystals that are formed in crevasses of glaciers where calm weather conditions allow water vapor accumulation.|
Snow Facts: 21-25 | Graupel explained
21. Graupel is often confused with hail or ice pellets or even small hail. However, graupel is different from all three.
22. There are certain atmospheric conditions where snow crystals can actually come in contact with supercooled water droplets. These supercooled water droplets can stay in liquid form even at temperatures as low as -40°C.
23. The moment the snow crystals or ice crystals come in contact with these supercooled water droplets, the droplets freeze right on the surface of the ice crystals as a result, the crystals keep growing though the process known as accretion.
24. When process of accretion continues and reaches a stage where it becomes virtually impossible to identify the actual snow crystals, they are known as graupel.
25. Graupels usually have a diameter of 2 to 2 millimeters. Graupels are lumpy masses that may look like hail but they crumbly and softer and may fall apart when touched.
Snow Facts: 26-30 | Polycrystals explained and a few fun facts
26.These are basically snowflakes that are made of many individual snow crystals (snowflakes or ice crystals) that may vary in size and orientation.
27. The individual snowflakes in a polycrystal may be of different type and shape.
28. Snow Fun Fact #1: Did you know that the saying that no two snowflakes can be identical is actually a myth? It was true until in 1988, a scientist in Wisconsin managed to find two identical snowflakes.
29. Snow Fun Fact #2: Did you know there is something called Thundersnow? This is a condition in which lightning and thunders take place during snowing.
30. Snow Fun Fact #3: Did you know that the largest snowflake reported till date is 8 inches thick and 15 inches across? It has a Guinness World Record. It was found in Montana’s Fort Keogh in 1887. The exact date was January 28!
That completes our article on snow facts. However, we are far from being done. There’s a lot more to speak and we will do so in subsequent articles on snow facts. Until then…