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Eight snow facts you probably didn’t know

1. All snowflakes are unique, sort of.

The short answer is, yes, because each ice crystal has a unique path to the ground. They will float through different clouds of different temperatures and different levels of moisture, which means the ice crystal will grow in a unique way.

Temperature and humidity — moisture in the air — also impacts the shape of ice crystals. At 23 degrees, ice crystals look longer and more like needles or pillars. At 5 degrees, they are flatter, like plates.

However, it is not likely every snowflake that has ever fallen has been different from each other.

2. Snow falls consistently.

Snowflakes fall at a rate of 1-6 feet per second, in all conditions. Even during high storms, snowflakes still fall in that range of speed.

3. Snow is white.

Duh.

However, if snow if frozen water, and frozen water is clear, why isn’t snow clear?

Ice is actually translucent, not transparent, which means ice is semi-clear. When a light wave hits it, the ice changes its path so that the light photons don’t pass right through. This makes ice translucent.

Snow is made up of many ice crystals. When light hits a snowflakes, the light arcs back and forth, side to side through the ice crystals so that it comes right back out. Since all of the colors of light are bounced back out of snow, we see a mix of all the different colors of light. Those different colors mixed together are white. We perceive snow as white.

Photo of hoarfrost

4. Snow can have different densities.

Sometimes snowfall is light and powdery, sometimes wet and heavy. This density is dependent on the temperature and dryness of the air when snow falls.

When the air is slightly warmer than 0 degrees Celsius, or 32 Fahrenheit, the snowflake will melt around the edges as it falls, sticking together more. These snowflakes become bigger, heavier and stickier, making them perfect for snowball fights and snowman-making.

If the air is dry and cool, the flakes that form will have a simpler structure and will form powder. The colder it is, the more powdery the snow will be, in general.

5. Snow can cause blindness.

Snow reflects light, which means it reflects UV rays. Overexposure to these UV rays without protection can cause snow blindness, or photokeratitis. Baiscally, this is a sunburned eye that results in temporary loss of vision.

Think of what happens to overexposed skin in the summertime. A sunburned eye is certainly no fun.

6. Snow can make the world quieter or louder.

After a fresh snow, it seems like the world is perfect, quiet, pure. That is partially due to the fact that freshly fallen snow absorbs sound waves, making the world seem a bit more hushed.

However, if snow melts and refreezes, that hard layer of ice can actually amplify sound and make it travel further and clearer.

7. Avalanches can’t be triggered by loud noises.

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” was a beloved movie growing up, and in it, there is a scene where an avalanche is caused by whooping, yelling and gunshots. However, that couldn’t actually happen.

8. Snow is warm.

That seems counterintuitive. Playing in the snow usually makes a person cold, but snow can keep you warm.

Snow is made up of more than 90 percent trapped air, so it acts as an insulator, like a down jacket. Animals burrow into the snow; igloos are made of snow; people have survived avalanches trapped in snow caves. Research has found that igloos, warmed only by body heat, can be as much as 100 degrees warmer than the air outside.

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