Snow is precipitation in the form of ice crystals.
Water vapor travels from the ground to the level of the atmosphere to form clouds all throughout the year no matter what the temperature is.
Snow forms when water vapor in the atmosphere freezes into ice crystals. These tiny ice crystals collect on tiny pieces of dirt in the atmosphere. Sometimes there are as many as 200 ice crystals clumped together to make a single snowflake.
Snow forms when the atmospheric temperature is at or below freezing (0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit) and there is a minimum amount of moisture in the air. If the ground temperature is at or below freezing, of course the snow will reach the ground.
There are so many ways that ice crystals can grow that some people say that no two snowflakes are alike. Probably no two snowflakes have exactly the same arrangement of molecules, but they can look alike.
Snow comes in different crystal shapes. Often depicted as stellar dentrites, snow can fall in a variety of shapes, such as simple prisms, hollow columns, fernlike stellar dentrites and triangular crystals. The shape of the snow is often too small to see with the naked eye, so researchers use a snowflake photomicroscope to document the different shapes and types of snowflakes.
Snow is actually colorless. Visible sunlight is white. Most natural materials absorb some sunlight which gives them their color. Snow, however, reflects most of the sunlight. The complex structure of snow crystals results in countless tiny surfaces from which visible light is efficiently reflected. What little sunlight is absorbed by snow is absorbed uniformly over the wavelengths of visible light thus giving snow its white appearance.
The average snowflake is made up of 180 billion molecules of water and falls at a speed of 5 kilometer per hour (3.1 miles per hour).
The average snowflake ranges from a size slightly smaller than a penny to the width of a human hair.
Every winter, at least one septillion (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000—24 zeros!) snowflakes fall from the sky.
Guinness World Records lists the largest snowflakes as having fallen during a storm in January 1887 at Fort Keogh, in Montana. A rancher nearby, the book says, called them “larger than milk pans” and measured one at 38 centimeters (15 inches) wide.
The exact amount of water contained in snow can vary quite significantly depending on how the snow formed, but as a general average, every 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) of snow would provide 1 centimeter (0.4 inch) of water.
The highest snowfall ever recorded in a one year period was 31.1 meters (1,224 inches) in Mount Rainier, Washington State, United States, between February 19, 1971 and February 18, 1972.
On March 5, 2015, some 2.56 meters (101 inches) of snow fell in 24 hours in Capracotta, Italy, setting a new world record, which is recognized by Guinness World Record. The record previously belonged to Silver Lake, Colorado, USA with 1.93 meters (75.8 inches).
By far the snowiest city on earth is Aomori City in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. This location averages a whopping 8 meters (26 feet) of snow per year, a 2.5 meters (100 inches) more than Sapporo, the next snowiest city.
Residents of Bethel, Maine, USA, and surrounding towns, built the world’s tallest snowman, which is actually a snowwoman measuring 37.21 meters (122 ft 1 in) tall, over a period of one month, completing her on 26 February 2008. She was only a few feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty.
The most snowmen built in one hour is 2,036 and was achieved by Drama 24 Unhandy Handyman (Japan) at Zuriyama Observation Field, in Akabira, Hokkaido, Japan, on 28 February 2015.
The record for the most people making snow angels simultaneously is 8,962 at the State Capitol Grounds in Bismarck, North Dakota for an event organized by the State Historical Society of North Dakota on 17 February 2007.
The largest snowball fight consisted of 7,681 participants and was achieved at an event organized by the City of Saskatoon, PotashCorp Wintershines Festival, and Yukigassen Team Canada (all Canada), in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, on 31 January 2016.
Carved out of snow and ice, Iglu-Dorf in the town of Zermatt (Switzerland) at the base of the Matterhorn is the world’s largest snow igloo, measuring an impressive 10.5 meters (34 feet 4 inches) tall, with a vast internal diameter of 12.9 meters (42 feet 4 inches). The Guinness Book of World Records confirmed it as the largest in 2016, after construction was completed in January.
Vermont farmer Wilson A. Bentley was known as Snowflake Bentley for being the first person to successfully photograph a snowflake. After years of experimenting with connecting microscopes to a bellows camera, in 1885 Wilson Bentley succeeding in capturing the first ever snowflake photograph. He became famous for photographing more than 5,000 jewel-like snowflakes.
Anthropologist Franz Boas mentioning his observations in the introduction to his 1911 book “Handbook of American Indian Languages,” he ignited the claim that Eskimos have dozens, or even hundreds, of words for snow. Although the idea continues to capture public imagination, most linguists considered it an urban legend, born of sloppy scholarship and journalistic exaggeration. Some have even gone as far as to name it the Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax. The latest evidence, however, suggests that Boas was right all along.
Chionophobia is the extreme dislike or fear of snow. The word originates from Greek chion meaning snow and phobos meaning fear, aversion or dread. People with Chionophobia often understand that their fear is unfounded and weird. However, they are unable to control it.
Snow reflects a high level of ultraviolet radiation and can cause snow blindness (photokeratitis).