Atmosphere And Weather

How Snow Flakes take Shape

Effie Moore Salem's image for:
"How Snow Flakes take Shape"
Caption: snowflakes
Image by: unknown

Snow, in one way of thinking about it, and in a very unscientific observation at that,  is a gentle form of rain. In a firmer form, it would either be sleet, or freezing rain. Sleet is the in between of snow and sleet. But then the whole process is more complicated than that, having all do with the weather and hot or cold air and how much moisture it contains. Snow is formed when the water in a cloud is at 32% temperature or below.

Since the temperature of the rain before it falls to earth and while it is still up there in a cloud, could be snow if the temperature is much cooler than it is here below. In passing through warmer air, it melts  into the rain drops. That is why snow always falls in colder weather and in colder climates. The temperature of the air near earth must be cold enough to keep it form melting, but not cold enough to freeze it into hardened ice.

Snow then is one form of condensation. In its pure liquid form it is water. Air contains moisture and as it rises and meets it condenses into snow flakes. Clouds themselves are moisture containing air that changes by the changes in the weather patterns. It forms by freezing into ice crystals and by bonding with other ice crystals to form flakes. Larger snow flakes are formed by them sticking to other flakes and they do this when their surface is still wet and allowing them to bond together.

The weather patterns are forever changing due to the pressure from other others that blow in hot or cold air, and the atmospheric conditions in the upper atmosphere. What conditions must be met before snow can form? The first is there must be enough water in the air, otherwise it will be cold, but snow will not form.

The same conditions must be met in the upper air where snow forms where temperature is concerned, as on earth. By that is meant, for water to freeze anywhere in the universe, the temperature must be at 0 Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Factors that change the appearance of the snow, or for the possibility of it ever happening are wind velocities, their directions, the temperature of the air, and the amount of water present.

Snow is illusive and the casual observer just enjoys it and probably does not dwell too much on the facts of its why it forms.  But to help better understand what snow is and how it forms, a few questions need be answered:  Why  are snow flakes lacy in appearance; and why no two flakes are ever the same; and why snow cones are not as popular as they once were; and why at the Antarctic there is always snow. In the Anarctia there is always snow because it seldom melts. It is too cold to snow, but snow is blown there from elswhere and the temperature is too cold to melt it.

The following guess about why snowflakes are lacy in appearance is due to their stickiness.  As snowflake is formed from two to hundreds of ice crystals, and the lacy appearances is created because not all the ice crystals bond. Where they do not bond, spaces develop. The surface stickiness has to do with how watery the outside edges of the crystals are; snow flakes are never the same because the ice crystals that bond together forming two, four eight, nine  and so on are different.  

And snow cream or the eating of snow is not as popular as it once was is downsized because of the accumulated particles it can collect on its way down. It is thought to possibly be toxic. But that does not make much sense, since it passes through the same air we breathe. Geographically, if needed, snow is still melted into water, if no other source of water is available. Wherever there are children, snow will continue to be fascinating, awe inspiring, and delightful. They can't seem to get enough of it.

More about this author: Effie Moore Salem

From Around the Web

  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow