Snow Facts

Home & Family, On the Road, Outdoors
on January 17, 2012
snow-trivia
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In many parts of America, winter means snow. If you think you’re familiar with the fluffy white stuff, read on and discover how much you really know about the frozen flakes that fall from the sky.

  • Snow forms in clouds, where the temperature is below freezing, but snowflakes can fall even when surface temperatures are in the mid-40s.
  • Each year, about 105 snow-producing storms occur in the continental United States. Each storm typically brings two to five days of snowfall.
  • A “snowflake” can be one ice crystal, several ice crystals stuck together, or even a “puffball” of crystals that fall from the clouds.
  • When it comes to larger, complex snowflakes, no two are alike, according to Kenneth Libbrecht, a physicist and professor at California Institute of Technology who has written books about snow. However, it’s possible that a “nano-snowflake,” a tiny flake with only a few molecules, could have a twin.
  • Traditionally, chunks of ice were machine-ground to make artificial snow for ski slopes and winter displays. Today, chilled water fired through high-pressure “snow guns” creates flakes and drifts. Snow also can be produced by chemical means.
  • Snow looks romantic in movies, but snow made from shaved ice is messy. That’s why filmmakers sometimes substitute materials such as instant mashed potato flakes, paper or cellulose.
  • A blizzard is a heavy snowstorm that lasts for more than three hours, with winds exceeding 35 mph, creating low visibility.
  • Japanese author Masaru Emoto claims that music can affect snow crystals. Water exposed to rock ’n’ roll produces ugly crystals, Emoto says, while classical music makes them beautiful. Libbrecht says physics does not support this idea.
  • Because snow crystals are so lightweight, it may take hours for them to flutter to the ground.
  • To see snowflakes up close, buy a small, inexpensive magnifier from a drugstore or hardware store. A single 5x lens will work, or use both lenses of a fold-up, double magnifier for 10x viewing.
  • Your car’s cold windshield is a great place to observe snowflakes.
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