Tag Archive for: science

A Blanket of Snow

After a warmer-than-average December melted the little snow we received and early January froze that into a dangerous coating of ice, I appreciate the blanket of snow I see now. Even very cold days are brightened by the sunlight reflecting off the ice crystals.

Perhaps it is due to pursuing interfaith seminary, Druidic studies, wildlife rehabilitation, and conservation at the same time that I am immensely curious about everything that catches my attention now. The latest snowfall was light, powdery, and very sparkly. I needed to know more about how snow worked.

grey squirrel moving through powdery snow

The grey squirrels are less enamored with dry snow, because all the nuts I toss disappear into the powder.

I learned that snow needs two things to form: an atmospheric temperature at or below freezing and moisture in the air. Basically, as I understand it, a cloud containing water droplets rises into the cooler part of the atmosphere or cold air moves down. Then water droplets within the cloud freeze into ice crystals. More droplets freeze onto each ice crystal until snowflakes are formed. Once a snowflake is heavy enough it falls towards the ground. If the ground is also cold, the snowflakes pile up without melting. If there are enough of them, we get blessed with a blanket of snow.

Dry snow, which means the air at ground level is cold enough to keep everything frozen, is the kind that sparkles. The individual ice crystals remain separated so there are lots of reflective surfaces. Wet snow, on the other hand, happens when warmer temperatures melt the crystals causing snowflakes stick together and to everything they touch, like trees. The wet stuff is great for building snowmen but is also heavy and hard to shovel.

This bit of knowledge has helped me to be less bothered by the deep freeze we have been experiencing. Although getting outdoors for morning meditation means putting on extra layers to protect myself from the cold, my mood is elevated by the glitter of snow.