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How does snow form?

Snow, like sleet and hail, is simply solid precipitation. It forms when temperatures are low and there is moisture in the form of tiny ice crystals in the atmosphere. Note that temperatures do not have to be below zero or 32°C or 32°F for the snow to form.

The air consists of tiny dust and ice particles, and both are very to snow formation. When the moisture in the air makes contact with the particles in low-temperature conditions, they form tiny ice crystals. Snowflakes start out small in size, but with time more water vapor may condense onto the ice crystals, or other tiny ice crystals may stick together to form bigger snowflakes.

As they grow in size, the snowflakes become heavy and gravity takes over. Snow will stay in its snow-form as long as atmospheric temperatures remain evenly low. If temperatures rise before the snowflakes reach the ground they will melt into water (rain).

How does snow form?

Snowfall can be defined as 'slight,' 'moderate' or 'heavy'. When snow is accompanied by strong winds, it can create blizzards and drifts.

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Reading sources include
The Formation of Snow Crystals. Kenneth G. Libbrecht
2007 Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.

 


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