Snow! Skiers, snowboarders, and children love it. But did you know there are different types of snow and ice?
As the winter weather arrives the ski resorts and skiers are readying their equipment. In contrast, homeowners and drivers are digging out the snow chains and snow blowers. But do the different kinds of snow conditions affect how we all deal with it?
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Different Types of Snow and Ice
From freezing rain to powdery snow and hail (or snow pellets) the different kinds of snow all have a different impact on the surroundings. Here I am going to talk basics, although I will use some scientific terms for this article I plan to keep it simple.
Moisture content, humidity, and temperature are 3 of the main factors affecting the type of snow on the ground that you have. So, let’s jump right in.
The Different Kinds of Snow
No matter the sort of snow the term fresh snow is exactly what it says. A fresh layer of snow where each crystal or snowflake is still recognizable. Noticeably the sort we all love to put the first footprints in.
Again, I think most of you will already know this. Compact snow is when old snow accumulation has either been walked on, driven on, or skied on, etc. As a result of this, the individual crystals and snowflakes are no longer identifiable, creating compact snow.
Not quite so obvious this one. When the surface temperature is below freezing the snow flakes do not start to melt on reaching the ground. Thus, creating powder snow that has less water content.
If you see blowing snow it will usually be this powder snow, creating snow formations and snowdrifts. To emphasize the point, you will not be able to make snowballs from powder snow but you will freeze while trying to do so.
Unlike compacted wet snow that becomes hard snow, you know the sort. You slip and slide and should you fall you are in for a hard landing. However, packed powder snow will retain some softness when compacted to create a softer fall.
Granular Snow (Graupel)
Granular snow or Graupel can be called by several different names., one of the most common being soft hail. These are created from supercooled water droplets i.e -32f degrees, they are very fragile and break easily if touched, unlike hailstones.
That being said, graupel may collect water as it falls through freezing temperatures, in which case it can easily become hail. This process is referred to as Riming and does not just include hail. As a matter of fact, rime ice is a major danger for planes that are flying through freezing clouds.
Although, obviously, all snow is frozen there is a difference. The examples above of the Graupel and hail are the perfect way to describe frozen snow. So, on that note, I will say no more.
When flakes of snow start to melt before reaching the ground it is referred to as being wet snow.
A good snowfall of wet snow will very quickly transform the landscape into a winter wonderland. The kids will also like wet snowfall conditions because it is the perfect snow for making snowballs. Having said that, if you are using the roads or walkways it will just as quickly become a hazard.
What is the Difference Between Snow and Ice?
You now have the knowledge and know all about the different types of snowfall. But I would just like to add the difference between ice and snow.
As I have stated that all snow is frozen some may think of it as ice but, be that as it may there is a big difference. Snow is formed from atmospheric vapor whereas ice, yes you’ve guessed it, is literally just frozen water formed into solid sheets or lumps.
Types of Snow Crystals
There are four basic kinds of snow ice crystals, and, depending on the atmospheric conditions they will vary in how they form into snow particles.
Single snow crystal or cluster of ice crystal that falls as snow
Graupel or Soft hail
Supercooled cloud droplets
Caused when ice crystals fall onto a surface that is colder than the surrounding air temperature
Snowflakes that are made up of multiple ice crystals
As I stated I am going to keep this simple, I have made the examples above just that. But, I feel, this is all the average person would want or need to know about snow crystals as I have covered snow types in some detail.
Different Kinds of Snow Falls and Types of Snowstorms
If you live in a snow zone of North America, then no doubt you will keep a keen eye on the weather reports. Watching for the first winter storm that may be heading your way. With many areas in the world being covered with a depth of feet rather than inches.
It may be fine for skiing and snowboarding but what about those going about their daily routine.
A blizzard is really defined as a snowstorm with high winds. Blizzards do not just occur in the winter months either, certain spring conditions can bring unwanted spring snow cover to your roofs and roads.
Along with the considerable amount of falling snow, it is accompanied by winds of about 35 mph reducing visibility severely. Some of you may remember the blizzard of 1996 which left over 100 people dead.
Unlike blizzards, a snow squall is a brief but quite intense fall of snow. These are usually also accompanied by strong winds, making for hazardous driving and walking conditions with reduced visibility.
Snow flurries bring only a light dusting of snow to earth. Whereas a snow shower can vary in intensity and last a little longer with the possibility that it may accumulate on the ground surface.
There you have it, folks. I hope that I have covered all the aspects of snow that you wanted to know. To summarize completely I have put together some questions that are often asked. Hopefully, this will give some more interesting facts about snow.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the scientific name for snow?
As far as I have been able to find out there is no real scientific term used to generalize snow. Although Neve is often used it is actually more of a type than snow in general. The roots are from the Latin word ‘Nix’ and, as with a lot of words, has changed with the passage of time.
Why is snow called snow?
As with it not really having a scientific name. Probably up for debate, but one theory as to why snow is called snow is that it is derived from the Old English language. Apparently, Snaw is a word that was used to describe not just snow, but snowfalls or snowstorms in Old English terminology and has evolved over time.
What is a flurry of snow?
A snow flurry is literally just a flurry (brief period) of snow that will give only a dusting on the ground.