Snow: the Fascinating Phenomenon of Water

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Snow is made when water reaches freezing temperatures and begins to crystallise throughout the earth’s atmosphere. The snow may float around the atmosphere and throughout clouds, or it can make its way down to Earth. This occurs when we see snow covering the ground. In freezing polar regions, snow can be seen all year round.

When visiting the snow, you may see a snowflake. Snowflakes are wonderfully detailed and are made of up to 100 crystals. Each snowflake can look different; it depends on how much water vaporised to create the snowflake, and the temperature at which the snowflake was made.

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Snowflakes are created in two different ways. Firstly, when temperatures are above -40 C, water vapor may crystallize around minute nuclei of mineral particles that float in the air. When temperatures drop further than -40 C, the water’s vapor turns into crystals immediately. Snowflakes are typically created in the shape of hexagons, which is a six-sided object. In addition, when the weather is particularly humid, the crystals of the snowflake grow quicker and bigger. When the weather is colder and dry, snowflakes appear smaller.

Snowflakes are categorised based on their structure. There are many types, including plates, stellars, columns, needles, spatial dendrites, capped columns and irregular crystals. Snow is known as ‘frozen precipitation’, and there are three other categories of frozen precipitation asides for snow. These are known as graupel (otherwise known as ‘snow pellets’), sleet (otherwise known as ‘ice pellets’), and hail.

Many categories of clouds carry snow. Usually, cirrus and alto clouds carry snow, and we can see these clouds when temperatures are approximately -20 C. These clouds usually float within the upper atmosphere. Therefore, crystals that form in these clouds will usually evaporate before reaching us on Earth. However, clouds found within the lower atmosphere usually collect moisture and reach Earth in the form of snow, sleet, hail or rain. We can see these clouds as ice fogs when we visit high mountains. If we visit polar regions, we can see a phenomenon known as diamond dust. This occurs when ice columns and needles are created and fall to the Earth’s surface. Ice columns and needles are created when warm and cold air collide.

Snow can also be created artificially. This is done by combining freezing water clouds with solid carbon dioxide (also known as ‘dry ice) or silver iodine.

Snow can be either temporary or permanent. At any given time, snow is found on approximately 23% of the Earth’s surface. Snow is mostly found in polar regions. If snow is clean, it reflects up to 87% of the sun’s rays. Since snow is a poor conductor of heat, snow naturally creates a colder climate and can cause a halt in the growth of plants. However, when snow begins to melt, it can provide valuable nutrients to rivers and other water supplies.

Snow is frequently moved by wind, changing temperatures and its weight. Snow is usually dense, and begins to melt when spring or summer arrives. It can also form glaciers when it is turned into ice. Throughout hillsides, snow may cause snowslides and avalanches.

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