Introductory Guide to Snow Crystals and Snowflakes
In a nutshell, snowflakes form when water vapor in the air cools and condenses into drops of water. Each drop then freezes into a tiny ice crystal smaller than a period ( . ) at the end of a sentence. The air temperature and amount of water vapor in the air determines the shape of snow crystals.
Snowflakes form when tiny ice crystals stick to each other while falling and blowing through the wind. Many factors influence the size and shape of a snow flake including dust, salt or other solid particles in the air and how long it takes the snowflake to fall through the atmosphere.
One solitary falling snow flake is not a single entity. In fact, every snowflake is a collection of snow crystals which can consist of just one or two crystals to tiny but massive groups of hundreds to thousands of ice crystals. It is repeatedly said that no two snowflakes are alike, but in the single ice crystal shape, all snowflakes are identical. When you examine the microscopic photographs of the property of snow crystals you can see they are formed when tiny, identically shaped hexagonal crystals gather together.
Symmetrical snow crystals can be categorized into classifications which are used to create a common form of reference to describe snow crystals. This seemingly trivial information is of huge importance to scientists who track and study snow such as the Global Snowflake Network which is an organization that enlists volunteers to document the shape of snowflakes around the world.
Ok, why make such a fuss over something that most people either throw at each other, ski down hill upon, or grumble as they shovel it off their sidewalks and driveways and cars? I suppose the most obvious reasons would be for safety.
Cool Scientific Things to Know About Snowflakes
People who live in climates cold enough for snowfall are subjected to snowstorms whenever warm, moist air collides with cold air. Storms are notoriously unpredictable. The efforts of scientists who study snow and ice contribute to the advancements in metrology and our ability to predict storms and inclement weather in order to save lives and property. Blizzards are the worst of snowstorms that come with high winds that blow the snow so hard visibility becomes impossible.
If you were planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, or a day of skiing or hiking in the mountains, for instance, you'd probably be grateful to hear in advance of a massive storm coming your way.
Avalanches are massive movements of snow which happen suddenly, as temperature conditions change and the snowpack becomes unstable under its own weight. Avalanche size can range from very small and harmless to so large they become deadly to people and other living things. The unstable snow pack of an avalanche can give way and slide down a mountain and literally bury skiers, hikers, destroy buildings, trees and forests, and bury railroads and highways as it travels down hill. Alternate freezing and thawing of snow on steep inclines can quickly melt and cause mudslides such as the disasterous slide in the mountains of Peru in 2004.
So, as you can imagine this little speck of frozen water, which contain oxygen and hydrogen, is probably the most important little no-seeum we have on the planet.
- Common Snowflake Shapes and Sizes
- Snowflake Classification
- Cool Scientific Things to Know
- How Snowflakes for Children Can Help
- What are common snowflake shapes and sizes?
- Guide to Different Types of Snowflakes and Other Flaky Snow Facts
- How do Snowflakes Form?
- Snowflakes are Symmetrical
- Metamorphosed Snow
- No Two Snowflakes Are Exactly Alike
- Why should we care about Snow types?
- Where is the Coldest Place on Earth?
- Snowflake and Ice Crystal Classifications
- Avalanches Happen
- Snow Crystal Charts
- Science of Snow, Links for Teachers
Family Friendly Paper Crafts for Young Children
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