Cold…white…fluffy…wet…frozen: all of these words describe snow. But what is snow and where does it come from.
What is snow
Snow is frozen rain. Wait! Isn’t frozen rain ice? Yes, but so is snow. Here’s how it happens…
Water vapor travels from the ground to the level of the atmosphere to form clouds all throughout the year no matter what the temperature is. When both the earth’s surface and the atmosphere is cold, the water vapor turns into tiny ice crystals. But wait…there’s more!
These tiny ice crystals collect on tiny pieces of dirt in the atmosphere. Sometimes there are as many as 200 ice crystals clumped together to make a single snowflake.
If the water vapor turns into water on the way up (because of warmer air) and then freezes again, the water vapor turns into sleet or ice instead of snow.
Why do some places have more snow than others
This is an easy question to answer: some places have more snow because the air is colder for longer periods of time AND there is a larger amount of water vapor in the air than there is in other places.
What causes the snow to fall to the ground
A snow storm takes place with a cold, dry air mass collides with a warm, moist (wet) air mass. The warm air weighs less, so it keeps floating higher into the cold air. When it does, the moisture forms into snowflakes and then falls because the cold air is too heavy to hold it in the air.
NOTE: An air mass is a large area of air that is the same temperature and has the same amount of moisture as the ground below it.
What does the snow do for us
You might think the snow is only good for making snowballs and snowmen and for sledding down hills. All those things are fun, but that’s not all snow can do. Snow:
- Waters the ground in the winter.
- Ski resorts need snow to stay in business. That means some people count on snow to have a job.
- Makes it possible for some animals to survive (polar bears, some penguins, and other arctic animals).
Other fun snow facts
- No two snowflakes are alike…EVER.
- Snow is not white. It is clear (like most ice is). Because snow is clear, the white light from the sun reflects or bounces off the clear snow (kind of like a mirror) and comes back toward us. That is why looking at the snow is like looking into a bright light.
- The state of Washington is the place that holds the record for getting the most snow in a year. Mt. Rainier in Washington got 1,224 inches of snow in a one year period in the late 1970s.
What is your favorite thing about the snow?