Snow Science

February 23, 2010 at 9:01 pm Leave a comment

I LOVE THE SNOW!!! Growing up in Austin, TX you don’t see weather like today very often. Look how amazing Girlstart’s backyard and van looks covered in snow!

Fun Facts about Snow

What is Snow?

When water freezes inside clouds, ice crystals form. Ice crystals are crystals that have formed around tiny bits of dirt that have been carried up into the atmosphere by the wind. The ice crystals join together creating snow flakes. Once the flakes are heavy enough they fall to the ground as snow. Each snowflake is made up of from 2 to about 200 separate crystals. In addition to a normal snow fall, snow can drift to the ground lightly as flurries, fall heavily as a snowstorm, or pile up quickly by being blown by strong winds in a blizzard.

What Color is Snow?

Believe it or not, snow is actually clear/transparent. Snow appears white because the crystals act as prisms, breaking up the light of the sun into the entire spectrum of color. The human eye is unable to handle that kind of sensory overload. Therefore, we see the snow as white or sometimes blue.

How many Snowflake shapes are there?

Scientists believe there are five common shapes of snow crystals; long needles or flat six-sided crystals, hollow column that is shaped like a six-sided prism, thin and flat six-sided plates, six-pointed stars and intricate dendrites.

What makes the different shapes?

The shape that a snow crystal will take depends on the temperature at which it was formed. Colder temperatures produce snowflakes with sharper tips on the sides of the crystals and may lead to branching of the snowflake arms (dendrites). Snowflakes that grow under warmer conditions grow more slowly, resulting in smoother, less intricate shapes.

  • 32-25° F – Thin hexagonal plates
  • 25-21° F – Needles
  • 21-14° F – Hollow columns
  • 14-10° F – Sector plates (hexagons with indentations)
  • 10-3° F – Dendrites (lacy hexagonal shapes)

The colder it is outside, the smaller the snowflakes that fall. The fluffiest snow falls at temperatures around 15°F.

Hexagonal Plate


6 Pointed Star


Hollow Columns

Sectored Plates

Additional Snowflake Patterns

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