Snow much to know about!

Get outside to enjoy some snow fun and bring along some interesting information about the science of snow.

Winter in Michigan offers us a variety of things not available in other seasons. We have polar vortex, frozen lakes, short days, dazzling starry nights and snow! By now, all of Michigan has some snow cover. Residents near any of the Great Lakes are likely experiencing more than those who are inland and those amounts can widely vary. However, there is enough snow to enjoy some of the winter activities that make Michigan winter fun and enjoyable!

Snowmobiling, Nordic skiing, alpine skiing and snowshoeing are popular winter activities for many in the Upper Great Lakes region. Snowball fights, snow forts, tobogganing and sledding are long-time favorites enjoyed by many for generations. It’s snow that makes these activities possible. But what makes snow and what are some of its characteristics? These are good to know as you venture outside with your children or other youth that you may mentor.

Snow forms from water molecules in freezing temperatures that stick together creating snow crystals. These crystals keep getting bigger and clump together creating snowflakes. These snowflakes have appendices, which create air pockets. Air pockets provide snow an incredible insulating quality. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, fresh, uncompact snow can hold as much as 90 percent to 95 percent air. This insulating quality is important for many animals, plants and human factors as well!

Snow can be wet or dry depending on a number of factors including air temperature, wind and location. A wet, heavy snow does not have as much air space therefore creating a more dense snow pack. In contrast, dry snow is less dense, will have more air pockets and is not “sticky” as wet snow. This is part of the reason dry snow will squeak when stepped on and will not pack easily.

Snow undergoes a fascinating process called sintering when the snowflake appendices are physically broken. Sintering occurs by stepping on snow, shoveling, plowing or making a snowball. When the crystal arms are broken, the rounded snowflake bonds with others by freezing to form a larger snow mass. This is the reason behind piling snow to make a quinzee (a snow hut).

The doldrums of winter may or may not have set in yet for many this season. If not, keep getting outside and enjoy the best of winter that Michigan has to offer. If so, go outdoors to break the monotony that exists. Whatever your choice of snow fun, Michigan State University Extension encourages you to go with a youth. You can learn winter fun from them and help them understand a little more about the science of snow!

Related Events

Related Articles

Related Resources