Snow - What is it?

We take a quick look at snow. Is it astronaut dandruff reentering the atmosphere? Is it people chucking ice from aeroplanes? Is it a highly randomised meteorological phenomenon involving supercooled H2O? Lets find out!

Two koalas having a snowball fight

Koala's hands are perfectly shaped for making snowballs this paired,
with excellent hand eye coordination means it's serendipitous
they come from a place with little snow.

How does it form?

Frozen water! Well it's a bit more complicated than that. Snow is ice crystals that form way above our heads, unless your head is in the clouds in which case it's happening all around you. These tiny little crystals combine and form flakes.  They get heavy as they combine, and eventually fall. If it's above 0 but below 2 degrees they begin to form bigger flakes by sticking together. If you are a snow sports fan you don’t want this to happen. Powder snow falls when the air is drier.

Woman wearing snowboarder hoodie

Sifakas snowboarder sustainable vegan hoodie

Most snow flakes actually require a small particle of dust to form.  Its around this nucleus that the snow flake grows in the clouds.  Ironically these particles can come from desserts.  The hottest places on earth help produce some of the coldest!

Snow accounts for a huge 75% of the earth's freshwater! Which makes sense if you have ever had a slushy drink, there is never enough syrup! 

Like a great inspirational quote "every snowflake is unique".  If you like maths you could look into fractals and their possible relationship to snowflake shapes. Alternatively you could just marvel at the beauty. They appear white as the light reflects off the many edges of the crystal.

Person star gazing in the snow

Star gazing in the snow with big dipper

Is snow good?

In some cases yes, in fact without snow many plants would die from the cold. Snow acts as a great insulator and stops a lot of cold damage from occurring.

Ice is brilliant at reflecting solar rays and keeping the planet cool.  That is one of the many reasons why the Ice caps are so important. Currently 10% of the Earth surface is ice but that is melting at a rapid rate. This affects so many things from sea levels to ocean currents.

In terms of the UK economy its estimated that snow fall can cost it £1 billion pounds a day but that figure is higher disputed as in general these losses are made up throughout the year

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