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Wikipedia

Snow

For other uses, see Snow (disambiguation).
"Snowfall" redirects here. For other uses, see Snowfall (disambiguation).

Snow comprises individual ice crystals that grow while suspended in the atmosphere—usually within clouds—and then fall, accumulating on the ground where they undergo further changes. It consists of frozen crystalline water throughout its life cycle, starting when, under suitable conditions, the ice crystals form in the atmosphere, increase to millimeter size, precipitate and accumulate on surfaces, then metamorphose in place, and ultimately melt, slide or sublimate away.

Snow
Norwegian train plowing through drifted snow
Physical properties
Density (ρ)0.1–0.8 g/cm3
Mechanical properties
Tensile strengtht)1.5–3.5 kPa
Compressive strength (σc)3–7 MPa
Thermal properties
Melting temperature (Tm)0 °C
Thermal conductivity (k) For densities 0.1 to 0.5 g/cm30.05–0.7 W/(K·m)
Electrical properties
Dielectric constant (εr) For dry snow density 0.1 to 0.9 g/cm31–3.2
The physical properties of snow vary considerably from event to event, sample to sample, and over time.

Snowstorms organize and develop by feeding on sources of atmospheric moisture and cold air. Snowflakes nucleate around particles in the atmosphere by attracting supercooled water droplets, which freeze in hexagonal-shaped crystals. Snowflakes take on a variety of shapes, basic among these are platelets, needles, columns and rime. As snow accumulates into a snowpack, it may blow into drifts. Over time, accumulated snow metamorphoses, by sintering, sublimation and freeze-thaw. Where the climate is cold enough for year-to-year accumulation, a glacier may form. Otherwise, snow typically melts seasonally, causing runoff into streams and rivers and recharging groundwater.

Major snow-prone areas include the polar regions, the northernmost half of the Northern Hemisphere and mountainous regions worldwide with sufficient moisture and cold temperatures. In the Southern Hemisphere, snow is confined primarily to mountainous areas, apart from Antarctica.

Snow affects such human activities as transportation: creating the need for keeping roadways, wings, and windows clear; agriculture: providing water to crops and safeguarding livestock; sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowmachine travel; and warfare. Snow affects ecosystems, as well, by providing an insulating layer during winter under which plants and animals are able to survive the cold.

Contents

Worldwide occurrence of snowfall. Snow at reference above sea level (meters):
Below 500: annually.
Below 500: annually, but not in all of its territory.
500: above annually, below occasionally.
Above 500: annually.
Above 2,000: annually.
Any elevation: none.

Snow develops in clouds that themselves are part of a larger weather system. The physics of snow crystal development in clouds results from a complex set of variables that include moisture content and temperatures. The resulting shapes of the falling and fallen crystals can be classified into a number of basic shapes and combinations thereof. Occasionally, some plate-like, dendritic and stellar-shaped snowflakes can form under clear sky with a very cold temperature inversion present.

Cloud formation

Snow clouds usually occur in the context of larger weather systems, the most important of which is the low-pressure area, which typically incorporate warm and cold fronts as part of their circulation. Two additional and locally productive sources of snow are lake-effect (also sea-effect) storms and elevation effects, especially in mountains.

Low-pressure areas

Main article: Extratropical cyclone
Extratropical cyclonic snowstorm, February 24, 2007—(Click for animation.)

Mid-latitude cyclones are low-pressure areas which are capable of producing anything from cloudiness and mild snow storms to heavy blizzards. During a hemisphere's fall, winter, and spring, the atmosphere over continents can be cold enough through the depth of the troposphere to cause snowfall. In the Northern Hemisphere, the northern side of the low-pressure area produces the most snow. For the southern mid-latitudes, the side of a cyclone that produces the most snow is the southern side.

Fronts

Main article: Weather front
Frontal snowsquall moving toward Boston, Massachusetts

A cold front, the leading edge of a cooler mass of air, can produce frontal snowsqualls—an intense frontal convective line (similar to a rainband), when temperature is near freezing at the surface. The strong convection that develops has enough moisture to produce whiteout conditions at places which the line passes over as the wind causes intense blowing snow. This type of snowsquall generally lasts less than 30 minutes at any point along its path, but the motion of the line can cover large distances. Frontal squalls may form a short distance ahead of the surface cold front or behind the cold front where there may be a deepening low-pressure system or a series of trough lines which act similar to a traditional cold frontal passage. In situations where squalls develop post-frontally, it is not unusual to have two or three linear squall bands pass in rapid succession separated only by 25 miles (40 kilometers), with each passing the same point roughly 30 minutes apart. In cases where there is a large amount of vertical growth and mixing, the squall may develop embedded cumulonimbus clouds resulting in lightning and thunder which is dubbed thundersnow.

A warm front can produce snow for a period as warm, moist air overrides below-freezing air and creates precipitation at the boundary. Often, snow transitions to rain in the warm sector behind the front.

Lake and ocean effects

Main article: Lake-effect snow
Cold northwesterly wind over Lake Superior and Lake Michigan creating lake-effect snowfall

Lake-effect snow is produced during cooler atmospheric conditions when a cold air mass moves across long expanses of warmer lake water, warming the lower layer of air which picks up water vapor from the lake, rises up through the colder air above, freezes, and is deposited on the leeward (downwind) shores.

The same effect occurring over bodies of salt water is termed ocean-effect or bay-effect snow. The effect is enhanced when the moving air mass is uplifted by the orographic influence of higher elevations on the downwind shores. This uplifting can produce narrow but very intense bands of precipitation which may deposit at a rate of many inches of snow each hour, often resulting in a large amount of total snowfall.

The areas affected by lake-effect snow are called snowbelts. These include areas east of the Great Lakes, the west coasts of northern Japan, the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, and areas near the Great Salt Lake, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Baltic Sea, and parts of the northern Atlantic Ocean.

Mountain effects

Orographic or relief snowfall is created when moist air is forced up the windward side of mountain ranges by a large-scale wind flow. The lifting of moist air up the side of a mountain range results in adiabatic cooling, and ultimately condensation and precipitation. Moisture is gradually removed from the air by this process, leaving drier and warmer air on the descending, or leeward, side. The resulting enhanced snowfall, along with the decrease in temperature with elevation, combine to increase snow depth and seasonal persistence of snowpack in snow-prone areas.

Mountain waves have also been found to help enhance precipitation amounts downwind of mountain ranges by enhancing the lift needed for condensation and precipitation.

Cloud physics

Main article: Snowflake
Freshly fallen snowflakes

A snowflake consists of roughly 1019 water molecules which are added to its core at different rates and in different patterns depending on the changing temperature and humidity within the atmosphere that the snowflake falls through on its way to the ground. As a result, snowflakes differ from each other though they follow similar patterns.

Snow crystals form when tiny supercooled cloud droplets (about 10 μm in diameter) freeze. These droplets are able to remain liquid at temperatures lower than −18 °C (0 °F), because to freeze, a few molecules in the droplet need to get together by chance to form an arrangement similar to that in an ice lattice. The droplet freezes around this "nucleus". In warmer clouds, an aerosol particle or "ice nucleus" must be present in (or in contact with) the droplet to act as a nucleus. Ice nuclei are very rare compared to cloud condensation nuclei on which liquid droplets form. Clays, desert dust, and biological particles can be nuclei. Artificial nuclei include particles of silver iodide and dry ice, and these are used to stimulate precipitation in cloud seeding.

Once a droplet has frozen, it grows in the supersaturated environment—one where air is saturated with respect to ice when the temperature is below the freezing point. The droplet then grows by diffusion of water molecules in the air (vapor) onto the ice crystal surface where they are collected. Because water droplets are so much more numerous than the ice crystals, the crystals are able to grow to hundreds of micrometers or millimeters in size at the expense of the water droplets by the Wegener–Bergeron–Findeisen process. These large crystals are an efficient source of precipitation, since they fall through the atmosphere due to their mass, and may collide and stick together in clusters, or aggregates. These aggregates are snowflakes, and are usually the type of ice particle that falls to the ground. Although the ice is clear, scattering of light by the crystal facets and hollows/imperfections mean that the crystals often appear white in color due to diffuse reflection of the whole spectrum of light by the small ice particles.

Classification of snowflakes

An early classification of snowflakes by Israel Perkins Warren

Micrography of thousands of snowflakes from 1885 onward, starting with Wilson Alwyn Bentley, revealed the wide diversity of snowflakes within a classifiable set of patterns. Closely matching snow crystals have been observed.

Ukichiro Nakaya developed a crystal morphology diagram, relating crystal shapes to the temperature and moisture conditions under which they formed, which is summarized in the following table.

Crystal structure morphology as a function of temperature and water saturation
Temperature range Saturation range Types of snow crystal
°C °F g/m3 oz/cu yd below saturation above saturation
0 to −3.5 32 to 26 0.0 to 0.5 0.000 to 0.013 Solid plates Thin plates

Dendrites

−3.5 to −10 26 to 14 0.5 to 1.2 0.013 to 0.032 Solid prisms

Hollow prisms

Hollow prisms

Needles

−10 to −22 14 to −8 1.2 to 1.4 0.032 to 0.038 Thin plates

Solid plates

Sectored plates

Dendrites

−22 to −40 −8 to −40 1.2 to 0.1 0.0324 to 0.0027 Thin plates

Solid plates

Columns

Prisms

Nakaya discovered that the shape is also a function of whether the prevalent moisture is above or below saturation. Forms below the saturation line trend more towards solid and compact while crystals formed in supersaturated air trend more towards lacy, delicate, and ornate. Many more complex growth patterns also form, which include side-planes, bullet-rosettes, and planar types, depending on the conditions and ice nuclei. If a crystal has started forming in a column growth regime at around −5 °C (23 °F) and then falls into the warmer plate-like regime, plate or dendritic crystals sprout at the end of the column, producing so called "capped columns".

Magono and Lee devised a classification of freshly formed snow crystals that includes 80 distinct shapes. They documented each with micrographs.

An animation of seasonal snow changes, based on satellite imagery

Snow accumulates from a series of snow events, punctuated by freezing and thawing, over areas that are cold enough to retain snow seasonally or perennially. Major snow-prone areas include the Arctic and Antarctic, the Northern Hemisphere, and alpine regions. The liquid equivalent of snowfall may be evaluated using a snow gauge or with a standard rain gauge, adjusted for winter by removal of a funnel and inner cylinder. Both types of gauges melt the accumulated snow and report the amount of water collected. At some automatic weather stations an ultrasonic snow depth sensor may be used to augment the precipitation gauge.

Events

New York City during a 2016 blizzard, which produced local wind gusts up to 42 miles per hour (68 km/h) and dropped 27.5 inches (70 cm) of snow, breaking the city's one-day snowfall record.

Snow flurry, snow shower, snow storm and blizzard describe snow events of progressively greater duration and intensity. A blizzard is a weather condition involving snow and has varying definitions in different parts of the world. In the United States, a blizzard occurs when two conditions are met for a period of three hours or more: a sustained wind or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour (56 km/h), and sufficient snow in the air to reduce visibility to less than 0.4 kilometers (0.25 mi). In Canada and the United Kingdom, the criteria are similar. While heavy snowfall often occurs during blizzard conditions, falling snow is not a requirement, as blowing snow can create a ground blizzard.

Snowstorm intensity may be categorized by visibility and depth of accumulation. Snowfall's intensity is determined by visibility, as follows:

  • Light: visibility greater than 1 kilometer (0.6 mi)
  • Moderate: visibility restrictions between 0.5 and 1 kilometer (0.3 and 0.6 mi)
  • Heavy: visibility is less than 0.5 kilometers (0.3 mi)

The International Classification for Seasonal Snow on the Ground defines "height of new snow" as the depth of freshly fallen snow, in centimeters as measured with a ruler, that accumulated on a snowboard during an observation period of 24 hours, or other observation interval. After the measurement, the snow is cleared from the board and the board is placed flush with the snow surface to provide an accurate measurement at the end of the next interval. Melting, compacting, blowing and drifting contribute to the difficulty of measuring snowfall.

Distribution

Snow-covered trees in Kuusamo, Finland

Glaciers with their permanent snowpacks cover about 10% of the earth's surface, while seasonal snow covers about nine percent, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, where seasonal snow covers about 40 million square kilometres (15×10^6 sq mi), according to a 1987 estimate. A 2007 estimate of snow cover over the Northern Hemisphere suggested that, on average, snow cover ranges from a minimum extent of 2 million square kilometres (0.77×10^6 sq mi) each August to a maximum extent of 45 million square kilometres (17×10^6 sq mi) each January or nearly half of the land surface in that hemisphere. A study of Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent for the period 1972–2006 suggests a reduction of 0.5 million square kilometres (0.19×10^6 sq mi) over the 35-year period.

Records

The following are world records regarding snowfall and snowflakes:

  • Highest seasonal total snowfall – The world record for the highest seasonal total snowfall was measured in the United States at Mt. Baker Ski Area, outside of the city of Bellingham, Washington during the 1998–1999 season. Mount Baker received 2,896 cm (95.01 ft) of snow, thus surpassing the previous record holder, Mount Rainier, Washington, which during the 1971–1972 season received 2,850 cm (93.5 ft) of snow.
  • Highest seasonal average annual snowfall – The world record for the highest average annual snowfall is 1,764 cm (57.87 ft), measured in Sukayu Onsen, Japan for the period of 1981–2010.
  • Largest snowflake – According to Guinness World Records, the world's largest snowflake fell in January 1887 outside present-day Miles City, Montana. It measured 38 cm (15 in) in diameter.
Fresh snow beginning to metamorphose: The surface shows wind packing and sastrugi. In the foreground are hoar frost crystals, formed by refrozen water vapor emerging to the cold surface.

After deposition, snow progresses on one of two paths that determine its fate, either ablation (mostly by melting) or transitioning from firn (multi-year snow) into glacier ice. During this transition, snow "is a highly porous, sintered material made up of a continuous ice structure and a continuously connected pore space, forming together the snow microstructure". Almost always near its melting temperature, a snowpack is continually transforming these properties in a process, known as metamorphism, wherein all three phases of water may coexist, including liquid water partially filling the pore space. Starting as a powdery deposition, snow becomes more granular when it begins to compact under its own weight, be blown by the wind, sinter particles together and commence the cycle of melting and refreezing. Water vapor plays a role as it deposits ice crystals, known as hoar frost, during cold, still conditions.

Seasonal snowpack

Main articles: Snowpack and Névé

Over the course of time, a snowpack may settle under its own weight until its density is approximately 30% of water. Increases in density above this initial compression occur primarily by melting and refreezing, caused by temperatures above freezing or by direct solar radiation. In colder climates, snow lies on the ground all winter. By late spring, snow densities typically reach a maximum of 50% of water. Snow that persists into summer evolves into névé, granular snow, which has been partially melted, refrozen and compacted. Névé has a minimum density of 500 kilograms per cubic metre (31 lb/cu ft), which is roughly half of the density of liquid water.

Firn

Main article: Firn
Firn—metamorphosed multi-year snow

Firn is snow that has persisted for multiple years and has been recrystallized into a substance denser than névé, yet less dense and hard than glacial ice. Firn resembles caked sugar and is very resistant to shovelling. Its density generally ranges from 550 kilograms per cubic metre (34 lb/cu ft) to 830 kilograms per cubic metre (52 lb/cu ft), and it can often be found underneath the snow that accumulates at the head of a glacier. The minimum altitude that firn accumulates on a glacier is called the firn limit, firn line or snowline.

There are four main mechanisms for movement of deposited snow: drifting of unsintered snow, avalanches of accumulated snow on steep slopes, snowmelt during thaw conditions, and the movement of glaciers after snow has persisted for multiple years and metamorphosed into glacier ice.

Drifting

Snow drifts forming around downwind obstructions

When powdery, snow drifts with the wind from the location where it originally fell, forming deposits with a depth of several meters in isolated locations. After attaching to hillsides, blown snow can evolve into a snow slab, which is an avalanche hazard on steep slopes.

Avalanche

Main article: Avalanche
A powder snow avalanche

An avalanche (also called a snowslide or snowslip) is a rapid flow of snow down a sloping surface. Avalanches are typically triggered in a starting zone from a mechanical failure in the snowpack (slab avalanche) when the forces on the snow exceed its strength but sometimes only with gradually widening (loose snow avalanche). After initiation, avalanches usually accelerate rapidly and grow in mass and volume as they entrain more snow. If the avalanche moves fast enough some of the snow may mix with the air forming a powder snow avalanche, which is a type of gravity current. They occur in three major mechanisms:

  • Slab avalanches occur in snow that has been deposited, or redeposited by wind. They have the characteristic appearance of a block (slab) of snow cut out from its surroundings by fractures. These account for most back-country fatalities.
  • Powder snow avalanches result from a deposition of fresh dry powder and generate a powder cloud, which overlies a dense avalanche. They can exceed speeds of 300 kilometers per hour (190 mph), and masses of 10,000,000 tonnes (9,800,000 long tons; 11,000,000 short tons); their flows can travel long distances along flat valley bottoms and even uphill for short distances.
  • Wet snow avalanches are a low-velocity suspension of snow and water, with the flow confined to the surface of the pathway. The low speed of travel is due to the friction between the sliding surface of the pathway and the water saturated flow. Despite the low speed of travel (~10 to 40 kilometers per hour (6 to 25 mph)), wet snow avalanches are capable of generating powerful destructive forces, due to the large mass, and density.

Snowmelt

Snowmelt-induced flooding of the Red River of the North in 1997

Many rivers originating in mountainous or high-latitude regions receive a significant portion of their flow from snowmelt. This often makes the river's flow highly seasonal resulting in periodic flooding during the spring months and at least in dry mountainous regions like the mountain West of the US or most of Iran and Afghanistan, very low flow for the rest of the year. In contrast, if much of the melt is from glaciated or nearly glaciated areas, the melt continues through the warm season, with peak flows occurring in mid to late summer.

Glaciers

Main article: Glacier

Glaciers form where the accumulation of snow and ice exceeds ablation. The area in which an alpine glacier forms is called a cirque (corrie or cwm), a typically armchair-shaped geological feature, which collects snow and where the snowpack compacts under the weight of successive layers of accumulating snow, forming névé. Further crushing of the individual snow crystals and reduction of entrapped air in the snow turns it into glacial ice. This glacial ice will fill the cirque until it overflows through a geological weakness or an escape route, such as the gap between two mountains. When the mass of snow and ice is sufficiently thick, it begins to move due to a combination of surface slope, gravity and pressure. On steeper slopes, this can occur with as little as 15 m (50 ft) of snow-ice.

Main article: Snow science

Scientists study snow at a wide variety of scales that include the physics of chemical bonds and clouds; the distribution, accumulation, metamorphosis, and ablation of snowpacks; and the contribution of snowmelt to river hydraulics and ground hydrology. In doing so, they employ a variety of instruments to observe and measure the phenomena studied. Their findings contribute to knowledge applied by engineers, who adapt vehicles and structures to snow, by agronomists, who address the availability of snowmelt to agriculture, and those, who design equipment for sporting activities on snow. Scientists develop and others employ snow classification systems that describe its physical properties at scales ranging from the individual crystal to the aggregated snowpack. A sub-specialty is avalanches, which are of concern to engineers and outdoors sports people, alike.

Snow science addresses how snow forms, its distribution, and processes affecting how snowpacks change over time. Scientists improve storm forecasting, study global snow cover and its effect on climate, glaciers, and water supplies around the world. The study includes physical properties of the material as it changes, bulk properties of in-place snow packs, and the aggregate properties of regions with snow cover. In doing so, they employ on-the-ground physical measurement techniques to establish ground truth and remote sensing techniques to develop understanding of snow-related processes over large areas.

Measurement and classification

In the field snow scientists often excavate a snow pit within which to make basic measurements and observations. Observations can describe features caused by wind, water percolation, or snow unloading from trees. Water percolation into a snowpack can create flow fingers and ponding or flow along capillary barriers, which can refreeze into horizontal and vertical solid ice formations within the snowpack. Among the measurements of the properties of snowpacks that the International Classification for Seasonal Snow on the Ground includes are: snow height, snow water equivalent, snow strength, and extent of snow cover. Each has a designation with code and detailed description. The classification extends the prior classifications of Nakaya and his successors to related types of precipitation and are quoted in the following table:

Snow pit on the surface of a glacier, profiling snow properties where the snow becomes increasingly dense with depth as it metamorphoses towards ice
Frozen precipitation particles, related to snow crystals
Subclass Shape Physical process
Graupel Heavily rimed particles, spherical, conical,

hexagonal or irregular in shape

Heavy riming of particles by

accretion of supercooled water droplets

Hail Laminar internal structure, translucent

or milky glazed surface

Growth by accretion of

supercooled water, size: >5 mm

Ice pellets Transparent,

mostly small spheroids

Freezing of raindrops or refreezing of largely melted snow crystals or snowflakes (sleet).

Graupel or snow pellets encased in thin ice layer (small hail). Size: both 5 mm

Rime Irregular deposits or longer cones and

needles pointing into the wind

Accretion of small, supercooled fog droplets frozen in place.

Thin breakable crust forms on snow surface if process continues long enough.

All are formed in cloud, except for rime, which forms on objects exposed to supercooled moisture.

It also has a more extensive classification of deposited snow than those that pertain to airborne snow. The categories include both natural and man-made snow types, descriptions of snow crystals as they metamorphose and melt, the development of hoar frost in the snow pack and the formation of ice therein. Each such layer of a snowpack differs from the adjacent layers by one or more characteristics that describe its microstructure or density, which together define the snow type, and other physical properties. Thus, at any one time, the type and state of the snow forming a layer have to be defined because its physical and mechanical properties depend on them. Physical properties include microstructure, grain size and shape, snow density, liquid water content, and temperature.

Satellite data

Remote sensing of snowpacks with satellites and other platforms typically includes multi-spectral collection of imagery. Multi-faceted interpretation of the data obtained allows inferences about what is observed. The science behind these remote observations has been verified with ground-truth studies of the actual conditions.

Satellite observations record a decrease in snow-covered areas since the 1960s, when satellite observations began. In some regions such as China, a trend of increasing snow cover was observed from 1978 to 2006. These changes are attributed to global climate change, which may lead to earlier melting and less coverage area. However, in some areas there may be an increase in snow depth because of higher temperatures for latitudes north of 40°. For the Northern Hemisphere as a whole the mean monthly snow-cover extent has been decreasing by 1.3% per decade.

The most frequently used methods to map and measure snow extent, snow depth and snow water equivalent employ multiple inputs on the visible–infrared spectrum to deduce the presence and properties of snow. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) uses the reflectance of visible and infrared radiation to calculate a normalized difference snow index, which is a ratio of radiation parameters that can distinguish between clouds and snow. Other researchers have developed decision trees, employing the available data to make more accurate assessments. One challenge to this assessment is where snow cover is patchy, for example during periods of accumulation or ablation and also in forested areas. Cloud cover inhibits optical sensing of surface reflectance, which has led to other methods for estimating ground conditions underneath clouds. For hydrological models, it is important to have continuous information about the snow cover. Passive microwave sensors are especially valuable for temporal and spatial continuity because they can map the surface beneath clouds and in darkness. When combined with reflective measurements, passive microwave sensing greatly extends the inferences possible about the snowpack.

Models

Snowfall and snowmelt are parts of the Earth's water cycle.

Snow science often leads to predictive models that include snow deposition, snow melt, and snow hydrology—elements of the Earth's water cycle—which help describe global climate change.

Global climate change models (GCMs) incorporate snow as a factor in their calculations. Some important aspects of snow cover include its albedo (reflectivity of incident radiation, including light) and insulating qualities, which slow the rate of seasonal melting of sea ice. As of 2011, the melt phase of GCM snow models were thought to perform poorly in regions with complex factors that regulate snow melt, such as vegetation cover and terrain. These models typically derive snow water equivalent (SWE) in some manner from satellite observations of snow cover. The International Classification for Seasonal Snow on the Ground defines SWE as "the depth of water that would result if the mass of snow melted completely".

Given the importance of snowmelt to agriculture, hydrological runoff models that include snow in their predictions address the phases of accumulating snowpack, melting processes, and distribution of the meltwater through stream networks and into the groundwater. Key to describing the melting processes are solar heat flux, ambient temperature, wind, and precipitation. Initial snowmelt models used a degree-day approach that emphasized the temperature difference between the air and the snowpack to compute snow water equivalent, SWE. More recent models use an energy balance approach that take into account the following factors to compute Qm, the energy available for melt. This requires measurement of an array of snowpack and environmental factors to compute six heat flow mechanisms that contribute to Qm.

Snow affects human activity in four major areas, transportation, agriculture, structures, and sports. Most transportation modes are impeded by snow on the travel surface. Agriculture often relies on snow as a source of seasonal moisture. Structures may fail under snow loads. Humans find a wide variety of recreational activities in snowy landscapes.

Transportation

See also: Snowplow

Snow affects the rights of way of highways, airfields and railroads. They share a common tool for clearing snow, the snowplow. However, the application is different in each case—whereas roadways employ anti-icing chemicals to prevent bonding of ice, airfields may not; railroads rely on abrasives to enhance traction on tracks.

Highway

Traffic stranded in a 2011 Chicago snowstorm.
Winter conditions on Ontario Highway 401 in Toronto due to a snowsquall.

In the late 20th century, an estimated $2 billion was spent annually in North America on roadway winter maintenance, owing to snow and other winter weather events, according to a 1994 report by Kuemmel. The study surveyed the practices of jurisdictions within 44 US states and nine Canadian provinces. It assessed the policies, practices, and equipment used for winter maintenance. It found similar practices and progress to be prevalent in Europe.

The dominant effect of snow on vehicle contact with the road is diminished friction. This can be improved with the use of snow tires, which have a tread designed to compact snow in a manner that enhances traction. However, the key to maintaining a roadway that can accommodate traffic during and after a snow event is an effective anti-icing program that employs both chemicals and plowing. The FHWA Manual of Practice for an Effective Anti-icing Program emphasizes "anti-icing" procedures that prevent the bonding of snow and ice to the road. Key aspects of the practice include: understanding anti-icing in light of the level of service to be achieved on a given roadway, the climatic conditions to be encountered, and the different roles of deicing, anti-icing, and abrasive materials and applications, and employing anti-icing "toolboxes", one for operations, one for decision-making and another for personnel. The elements to the toolboxes are:

  • Operations – Addresses the application of solid and liquid chemicals, using various techniques, including prewetting of chloride-salts. It also addresses plowing capability, including types of snowplows and blades used.
  • Decision-making – Combines weather forecast information with road information to assess the upcoming needs for application of assets and the evaluation of treatment effectiveness with operations underway.
  • Personnel – Addresses training and deployment of staff to effectively execute the anti-icing program, using the appropriate materials, equipment and procedures.

The manual offers matrices that address different types of snow and the rate of snowfall to tailor applications appropriately and efficiently.

Snow fences, constructed upwind of roadways control snow drifting by causing windblown, drifting snow to accumulate in a desired place. They are also used on railways. Additionally, farmers and ranchers use snow fences to create drifts in basins for a ready supply of water in the spring.

Aviation

Deicing an aircraft during a snow event

In order to keep airports open during winter storms, runways and taxiways require snow removal. Unlike roadways, where chloride chemical treatment is common to prevent snow from bonding to the pavement surface, such chemicals are typically banned from airports because of their strong corrosive effect on aluminum aircraft. Consequently, mechanical brushes are often used to complement the action of snow plows. Given the width of runways on airfields that handle large aircraft, vehicles with large plow blades, an echelon of plow vehicles or rotary snowplows are used to clear snow on runways and taxiways. Terminal aprons may require 6 hectares (15 acres) or more to be cleared.

Properly equipped aircraft are able to fly through snowstorms under instrument flight rules. Prior to takeoff, during snowstorms they require deicing fluid to prevent accumulation and freezing of snow and other precipitation on wings and fuselages, which may compromise the safety of the aircraft and its occupants. In flight, aircraft rely on a variety of mechanisms to avoid rime and other types of icing in clouds, these include pulsing pneumatic boots, electro-thermal areas that generate heat, and fluid deicers that bleed onto the surface.

Rail

Railroads have traditionally employed two types of snow plows for clearing track, the wedge plow, which casts snow to both sides, and the rotary snowplow, which is suited for addressing heavy snowfall and casting snow far to one side or the other. Prior to the invention of the rotary snowplow ca. 1865, it required multiple locomotives to drive a wedge plow through deep snow. Subsequent to clearing the track with such plows, a "flanger" is used to clear snow from between the rails that are below the reach of the other types of plow. Where icing may affect the steel-to-steel contact of locomotive wheels on track, abrasives (typically sand) have been used to provide traction on steeper uphills.

Railroads employ snow sheds—structures that cover the track—to prevent the accumulation of heavy snow or avalanches to cover tracks in snowy mountainous areas, such as the Alps and the Rocky Mountains.

Snowplows for different transportation modes
  • Trucks plowing snow on a highway in Missouri

  • Airport snow-clearing operations include plowing and brushing

  • Swiss low-profile, train-mounted snowplow

Snow roads and runways

Snow can be compacted to form a snow road and be part of a winter road route for vehicles to access isolated communities or construction projects during the winter. Snow can also be used to provide the supporting structure and surface for a runway, as with the Phoenix Airfield in Antarctica. The snow-compacted runway is designed to withstand approximately 60 wheeled flights of heavy-lift military aircraft a year.

Agriculture

Satellite view of the Indus River, showing snow in the Himalayas, which feeds it, and agricultural areas in Pakistan that draw on it for irrigation.

Snowfall can be beneficial to agriculture by serving as a thermal insulator, conserving the heat of the Earth and protecting crops from subfreezing weather. Some agricultural areas depend on an accumulation of snow during winter that will melt gradually in spring, providing water for crop growth, both directly and via runoff through streams and rivers, which supply irrigation canals. The following are examples of rivers that rely on meltwater from glaciers or seasonal snowpack as an important part of their flow on which irrigation depends: the Ganges, many of whose tributaries rise in the Himalayas and which provide much irrigation in northeast India, the Indus River, which rises in Tibet and provides irrigation water to Pakistan from rapidly retreating Tibetan glaciers, and the Colorado River, which receives much of its water from seasonal snowpack in the Rocky Mountains and provides irrigation water to some 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares).

Structures

Snow accumulation on building roofs

Snow is an important consideration for loads on structures. To address these, European countries employ Eurocode 1: Actions on structures - Part 1-3: General actions - Snow loads. In North America, ASCE Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures gives guidance on snow loads. Both standards employ methods that translate maximum expected ground snow loads onto design loads for roofs.

Roofs

Icings resulting from meltwater at the bottom of the snow pack on the roof, flowing and refreezing at the eave as icicles and from leaking into the wall via an ice dam.

Snow loads and icings are two principal issues for roofs. Snow loads are related to the climate in which a structure is sited. Icings are usually a result of the building or structure generating heat that melts the snow that is on it.

Snow loads – The Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures gives guidance on how to translate the following factors into roof snow loads:

  • Ground snow loads
  • Exposure of the roof
  • Thermal properties of the roof
  • Shape of the roof
  • Drifting
  • Importance of the building

It gives tables for ground snow loads by region and a methodology for computing ground snow loads that may vary with elevation from nearby, measured values. The Eurocode 1 uses similar methodologies, starting with ground snow loads that are tabulated for portions of Europe.

Icings – Roofs must also be designed to avoid ice dams, which result from meltwater running under the snow on the roof and freezing at the eave. Ice dams on roofs form when accumulated snow on a sloping roof melts and flows down the roof, under the insulating blanket of snow, until it reaches below freezing temperature air, typically at the eaves. When the meltwater reaches the freezing air, ice accumulates, forming a dam, and snow that melts later cannot drain properly through the dam. Ice dams may result in damaged building materials or in damage or injury when the ice dam falls off or from attempts to remove ice dams. The melting results from heat passing through the roof under the highly insulating layer of snow.

Utility lines

In areas with trees, utility distribution lines on poles are less susceptible to snow loads than they are subject to damage from trees falling on them, felled by heavy, wet snow. Elsewhere, snow can accrete on power lines as "sleeves" of rime ice. Engineers design for such loads, which are measured in kg/m (lb/ft) and power companies have forecasting systems that anticipate types of weather that may cause such accretions. Rime ice may be removed manually or by creating a sufficient short circuit in the affected segment of power lines to melt the accretions.

Sports and recreation

Alpine skiing.
Main article: Winter sport

Snow figures into many winter sports and forms of recreation, including skiing and sledding. Common examples include cross-country skiing, Alpine skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. The design of the equipment used, e.g. skis and snowboards, typically relies on the bearing strength of snow and contends with the coefficient of friction bearing on snow.

Skiing is by far the largest form of winter recreation. As of 1994, of the estimated 65–75 million skiers worldwide, there were approximately 55 million who engaged in Alpine skiing, the rest engaged in cross-country skiing. Approximately 30 million skiers (of all kinds) were in Europe, 15 million in the US, and 14 million in Japan. As of 1996, there were reportedly 4,500 ski areas, operating 26,000 ski lifts and enjoying 390 million skier visits per year. The preponderant region for downhill skiing was Europe, followed by Japan and the US.

Increasingly, ski resorts are relying on snowmaking, the production of snow by forcing water and pressurized air through a snow gun on ski slopes. Snowmaking is mainly used to supplement natural snow at ski resorts. This allows them to improve the reliability of their snow cover and to extend their ski seasons from late autumn to early spring. The production of snow requires low temperatures. The threshold temperature for snowmaking increases as humidity decreases. Wet-bulb temperature is used as a metric since it takes air temperature and relative humidity into account. Snowmaking is a relatively expensive process in its energy consumption, thereby limiting its use.

Ski wax enhances the ability of a ski (or other runner) to slide over snow by reducing its coefficient of friction, which depends on both the properties of the snow and the ski to result in an optimum amount of lubrication from melting the snow by friction with the ski—too little and the ski interacts with solid snow crystals, too much and capillary attraction of meltwater retards the ski. Before a ski can slide, it must overcome the maximum value static friction. Kinetic (or dynamic) friction occurs when the ski is moving over the snow.

Warfare

Main article: Cold-weather warfare
See also: Ski warfare

Snow affects warfare conducted in winter, alpine environments or at high latitudes. The main factors are impaired visibility for acquiring targets during falling snow, enhanced visibility of targets against snowy backgrounds for targeting, and mobility for both mechanized and infantry troops. Snowfall can severely inhibit the logistics of supplying troops, as well. Snow can also provide cover and fortification against small-arms fire. Noted winter warfare campaigns where snow and other factors affected the operations include:

  • The French invasion of Russia, where poor traction conditions for ill-shod horses made it difficult for supply wagons to keep up with troops. That campaign was also strongly affected by cold, whereby the retreating army reached Neman River in December 1812 with only 10,000 of the 420,000 that had set out to invade Russia in June of the same year.
  • The Winter War, an attempt by the Soviet Union to take territory in Finland in late 1939 demonstrated superior winter tactics of the Finnish Army, regarding over-snow mobility, camouflage, and use of the terrain.
  • The Battle of the Bulge, a German counteroffensive during World War II, starting December 16, 1944, was marked by heavy snowstorms that hampered allied air support for ground troops, but also impaired German attempts to supply their front lines. On the Eastern Front with the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941, Operation Barbarossa, both Russian and German soldiers had to endure terrible conditions during the Russian winter. While use of ski infantry was common in the Red Army, Germany formed only one division for movement on skis.
  • The Korean War which lasted from June 25, 1950, until an armistice on July 27, 1953, began when North Korea invaded South Korea. Much of the fighting occurred during winter conditions, involving snow, notably during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, which was a stark example of cold affecting military operations, especially vehicles and weapons.
Military operations in snow
Algae, Chlamydomonas nivalis, that thrive in snow form red areas in the suncups on this snow surface

Both plant and animal life endemic to snow-bound areas develop ways to adapt. Among the adaptive mechanisms for plants are dormancy, seasonal dieback, survival of seeds; and for animals are hibernation, insulation, anti-freeze chemistry, storing food, drawing on reserves from within the body, and clustering for mutual heat.

Plant life

Snow interacts with vegetation in two principal ways, vegetation can influence the deposition and retention of snow and, conversely, the presence of snow can affect the distribution and growth of vegetation. Tree branches, especially of conifers intercept falling snow and prevent accumulation on the ground. Snow suspended in trees ablates more rapidly than that on the ground, owing to its greater exposure to sun and air movement. Trees and other plants can also promote snow retention on the ground, which would otherwise be blown elsewhere or melted by the sun. Snow affects vegetation in several ways, the presence of stored water can promote growth, yet the annual onset of growth is dependent on the departure of the snowpack for those plants that are buried beneath it. Furthermore, avalanches and erosion from snowmelt can scour terrain of vegetation.

Animal life

Arctic fox, a predator of smaller animals that live beneath the snow

Snow supports a wide variety of animals both on the surface and beneath. Many invertebrates thrive in snow, including spiders, wasps, beetles, snow scorpionflys and springtails. Such arthropods are typically active at temperatures down to −5 °C (23 °F). Invertebrates fall into two groups, regarding surviving subfreezing temperatures: freezing resistant and those that avoid freezing because they are freeze-sensitive. The first group may be cold hardy owing to the ability to produce antifreeze agents in their body fluids that allows survival of long exposure to sub-freezing conditions. Some organisms fast during the winter, which expels freezing-sensitive contents from their digestive tracts. The ability to survive the absence of oxygen in ice is an additional survival mechanism.

Small vertebrates are active beneath the snow. Among vertebrates, alpine salamanders are active in snow at temperatures as low as −8 °C (18 °F); they burrow to the surface in springtime and lay their eggs in melt ponds. Among mammals, those that remain active are typically smaller than 250 grams (8.8 oz). Omnivores are more likely to enter a torpor or be hibernators, whereas herbivores are more likely to maintain food caches beneath the snow. Voles store up to 3 kilograms (6.6 lb) of food and pikas up to 20 kilograms (44 lb). Voles also huddle in communal nests to benefit from one another's warmth. On the surface, wolves, coyotes, foxes, lynx, and weasels rely on these subsurface dwellers for food and often dive into the snowpack to find them.

Extraterrestrial "snow" includes water-based precipitation, but also precipitation of other compounds prevalent on other planets and moons in the Solar System. Examples are:

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Snow Language Watch Edit 160 160 Redirected from Snow cover For other uses see Snow disambiguation Snowfall redirects here For other uses see Snowfall disambiguation Snow comprises individual ice crystals that grow while suspended in the atmosphere usually within clouds and then fall accumulating on the ground where they undergo further changes 2 It consists of frozen crystalline water throughout its life cycle starting when under suitable conditions the ice crystals form in the atmosphere increase to millimeter size precipitate and accumulate on surfaces then metamorphose in place and ultimately melt slide or sublimate away SnowNorwegian train plowing through drifted snowPhysical propertiesDensity r 0 1 0 8 g cm3Mechanical propertiesTensile strength st 1 5 3 5 kPa 1 Compressive strength sc 3 7 MPa 1 Thermal propertiesMelting temperature Tm 0 CThermal conductivity k For densities 0 1 to 0 5 g cm30 05 0 7 W K m Electrical propertiesDielectric constant er For dry snow density 0 1 to 0 9 g cm31 3 2The physical properties of snow vary considerably from event to event sample to sample and over time Snowstorms organize and develop by feeding on sources of atmospheric moisture and cold air Snowflakes nucleate around particles in the atmosphere by attracting supercooled water droplets which freeze in hexagonal shaped crystals Snowflakes take on a variety of shapes basic among these are platelets needles columns and rime As snow accumulates into a snowpack it may blow into drifts Over time accumulated snow metamorphoses by sintering sublimation and freeze thaw Where the climate is cold enough for year to year accumulation a glacier may form Otherwise snow typically melts seasonally causing runoff into streams and rivers and recharging groundwater Major snow prone areas include the polar regions the northernmost half of the Northern Hemisphere and mountainous regions worldwide with sufficient moisture and cold temperatures In the Southern Hemisphere snow is confined primarily to mountainous areas apart from Antarctica 3 Snow affects such human activities as transportation creating the need for keeping roadways wings and windows clear agriculture providing water to crops and safeguarding livestock sports such as skiing snowboarding and snowmachine travel and warfare Snow affects ecosystems as well by providing an insulating layer during winter under which plants and animals are able to survive the cold 1 Contents 1 Precipitation 1 1 Cloud formation 1 1 1 Low pressure areas 1 1 2 Fronts 1 1 3 Lake and ocean effects 1 1 4 Mountain effects 1 2 Cloud physics 1 3 Classification of snowflakes 2 Accumulation 2 1 Events 2 2 Distribution 2 3 Records 3 Metamorphosis 3 1 Seasonal snowpack 3 2 Firn 4 Movement 4 1 Drifting 4 2 Avalanche 4 3 Snowmelt 4 4 Glaciers 5 Science 5 1 Measurement and classification 5 2 Satellite data 5 3 Models 6 Effects on human activity 6 1 Transportation 6 1 1 Highway 6 1 2 Aviation 6 1 3 Rail 6 1 4 Snow roads and runways 6 2 Agriculture 6 3 Structures 6 3 1 Roofs 6 3 2 Utility lines 6 4 Sports and recreation 6 5 Warfare 7 Effects on ecosystems 7 1 Plant life 7 2 Animal life 8 Outside of Earth 9 See also 10 References 11 External linksPrecipitation Worldwide occurrence of snowfall Snow at reference above sea level meters Below 500 annually Below 500 annually but not in all of its territory 500 above annually below occasionally Above 500 annually Above 2 000 annually Any elevation none Snow develops in clouds that themselves are part of a larger weather system The physics of snow crystal development in clouds results from a complex set of variables that include moisture content and temperatures The resulting shapes of the falling and fallen crystals can be classified into a number of basic shapes and combinations thereof Occasionally some plate like dendritic and stellar shaped snowflakes can form under clear sky with a very cold temperature inversion present 4 Cloud formation Snow clouds usually occur in the context of larger weather systems the most important of which is the low pressure area which typically incorporate warm and cold fronts as part of their circulation Two additional and locally productive sources of snow are lake effect also sea effect storms and elevation effects especially in mountains Low pressure areas Main article Extratropical cyclone Extratropical cyclonic snowstorm February 24 2007 Click for animation Mid latitude cyclones are low pressure areas which are capable of producing anything from cloudiness and mild snow storms to heavy blizzards 5 During a hemisphere s fall winter and spring the atmosphere over continents can be cold enough through the depth of the troposphere to cause snowfall In the Northern Hemisphere the northern side of the low pressure area produces the most snow 6 For the southern mid latitudes the side of a cyclone that produces the most snow is the southern side Fronts Main article Weather front Frontal snowsquall moving toward Boston Massachusetts A cold front the leading edge of a cooler mass of air can produce frontal snowsqualls an intense frontal convective line similar to a rainband when temperature is near freezing at the surface The strong convection that develops has enough moisture to produce whiteout conditions at places which the line passes over as the wind causes intense blowing snow 7 This type of snowsquall generally lasts less than 30 minutes at any point along its path but the motion of the line can cover large distances Frontal squalls may form a short distance ahead of the surface cold front or behind the cold front where there may be a deepening low pressure system or a series of trough lines which act similar to a traditional cold frontal passage In situations where squalls develop post frontally it is not unusual to have two or three linear squall bands pass in rapid succession separated only by 25 miles 40 kilometers with each passing the same point roughly 30 minutes apart In cases where there is a large amount of vertical growth and mixing the squall may develop embedded cumulonimbus clouds resulting in lightning and thunder which is dubbed thundersnow A warm front can produce snow for a period as warm moist air overrides below freezing air and creates precipitation at the boundary Often snow transitions to rain in the warm sector behind the front 7 Lake and ocean effects Main article Lake effect snow Cold northwesterly wind over Lake Superior and Lake Michigan creating lake effect snowfall Lake effect snow is produced during cooler atmospheric conditions when a cold air mass moves across long expanses of warmer lake water warming the lower layer of air which picks up water vapor from the lake rises up through the colder air above freezes and is deposited on the leeward downwind shores 8 9 The same effect occurring over bodies of salt water is termed ocean effect or bay effect snow The effect is enhanced when the moving air mass is uplifted by the orographic influence of higher elevations on the downwind shores This uplifting can produce narrow but very intense bands of precipitation which may deposit at a rate of many inches of snow each hour often resulting in a large amount of total snowfall 10 The areas affected by lake effect snow are called snowbelts These include areas east of the Great Lakes the west coasts of northern Japan the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia and areas near the Great Salt Lake Black Sea Caspian Sea Baltic Sea and parts of the northern Atlantic Ocean 11 Mountain effects Main article Precipitation types Orographic Orographic or relief snowfall is created when moist air is forced up the windward side of mountain ranges by a large scale wind flow The lifting of moist air up the side of a mountain range results in adiabatic cooling and ultimately condensation and precipitation Moisture is gradually removed from the air by this process leaving drier and warmer air on the descending or leeward side 12 The resulting enhanced snowfall 13 along with the decrease in temperature with elevation 14 combine to increase snow depth and seasonal persistence of snowpack in snow prone areas 1 15 Mountain waves have also been found to help enhance precipitation amounts downwind of mountain ranges by enhancing the lift needed for condensation and precipitation 16 Cloud physics Main article Snowflake Freshly fallen snowflakes A snowflake consists of roughly 1019 water molecules which are added to its core at different rates and in different patterns depending on the changing temperature and humidity within the atmosphere that the snowflake falls through on its way to the ground As a result snowflakes differ from each other though they follow similar patterns 17 18 19 Snow crystals form when tiny supercooled cloud droplets about 10 mm in diameter freeze These droplets are able to remain liquid at temperatures lower than 18 C 0 F because to freeze a few molecules in the droplet need to get together by chance to form an arrangement similar to that in an ice lattice The droplet freezes around this nucleus In warmer clouds an aerosol particle or ice nucleus must be present in or in contact with the droplet to act as a nucleus Ice nuclei are very rare compared to cloud condensation nuclei on which liquid droplets form Clays desert dust and biological particles can be nuclei 20 Artificial nuclei include particles of silver iodide and dry ice and these are used to stimulate precipitation in cloud seeding 21 Once a droplet has frozen it grows in the supersaturated environment one where air is saturated with respect to ice when the temperature is below the freezing point The droplet then grows by diffusion of water molecules in the air vapor onto the ice crystal surface where they are collected Because water droplets are so much more numerous than the ice crystals the crystals are able to grow to hundreds of micrometers or millimeters in size at the expense of the water droplets by the Wegener Bergeron Findeisen process These large crystals are an efficient source of precipitation since they fall through the atmosphere due to their mass and may collide and stick together in clusters or aggregates These aggregates are snowflakes and are usually the type of ice particle that falls to the ground 22 Although the ice is clear scattering of light by the crystal facets and hollows imperfections mean that the crystals often appear white in color due to diffuse reflection of the whole spectrum of light by the small ice particles 23 Classification of snowflakes Main article Snowflake Classification An early classification of snowflakes by Israel Perkins Warren 24 Micrography of thousands of snowflakes from 1885 onward starting with Wilson Alwyn Bentley revealed the wide diversity of snowflakes within a classifiable set of patterns 25 Closely matching snow crystals have been observed 26 Ukichiro Nakaya developed a crystal morphology diagram relating crystal shapes to the temperature and moisture conditions under which they formed which is summarized in the following table 1 Crystal structure morphology as a function of temperature and water saturation Temperature range Saturation range Types of snow crystal C F g m3 oz cu yd below saturation above saturation0 to 3 5 32 to 26 0 0 to 0 5 0 000 to 0 013 Solid plates Thin plates Dendrites 3 5 to 10 26 to 14 0 5 to 1 2 0 013 to 0 032 Solid prisms Hollow prisms Hollow prisms Needles 10 to 22 14 to 8 1 2 to 1 4 0 032 to 0 038 Thin plates Solid plates Sectored plates Dendrites 22 to 40 8 to 40 1 2 to 0 1 0 0324 to 0 0027 Thin plates Solid plates Columns Prisms Nakaya discovered that the shape is also a function of whether the prevalent moisture is above or below saturation Forms below the saturation line trend more towards solid and compact while crystals formed in supersaturated air trend more towards lacy delicate and ornate Many more complex growth patterns also form which include side planes bullet rosettes and planar types depending on the conditions and ice nuclei 27 28 29 If a crystal has started forming in a column growth regime at around 5 C 23 F and then falls into the warmer plate like regime plate or dendritic crystals sprout at the end of the column producing so called capped columns 22 Magono and Lee devised a classification of freshly formed snow crystals that includes 80 distinct shapes They documented each with micrographs 30 Accumulation An animation of seasonal snow changes based on satellite imagery Snow accumulates from a series of snow events punctuated by freezing and thawing over areas that are cold enough to retain snow seasonally or perennially Major snow prone areas include the Arctic and Antarctic the Northern Hemisphere and alpine regions The liquid equivalent of snowfall may be evaluated using a snow gauge 31 or with a standard rain gauge adjusted for winter by removal of a funnel and inner cylinder 32 Both types of gauges melt the accumulated snow and report the amount of water collected 33 At some automatic weather stations an ultrasonic snow depth sensor may be used to augment the precipitation gauge 34 Events New York City during a 2016 blizzard which produced local wind gusts up to 42 miles per hour 68 km h and dropped 27 5 inches 70 cm of snow breaking the city s one day snowfall record Snow flurry snow shower snow storm and blizzard describe snow events of progressively greater duration and intensity 35 A blizzard is a weather condition involving snow and has varying definitions in different parts of the world In the United States a blizzard occurs when two conditions are met for a period of three hours or more a sustained wind or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour 56 km h and sufficient snow in the air to reduce visibility to less than 0 4 kilometers 0 25 mi 36 In Canada and the United Kingdom the criteria are similar 37 38 While heavy snowfall often occurs during blizzard conditions falling snow is not a requirement as blowing snow can create a ground blizzard 39 Snowstorm intensity may be categorized by visibility and depth of accumulation 40 Snowfall s intensity is determined by visibility as follows 41 Light visibility greater than 1 kilometer 0 6 mi Moderate visibility restrictions between 0 5 and 1 kilometer 0 3 and 0 6 mi Heavy visibility is less than 0 5 kilometers 0 3 mi The International Classification for Seasonal Snow on the Ground defines height of new snow as the depth of freshly fallen snow in centimeters as measured with a ruler that accumulated on a snowboard during an observation period of 24 hours or other observation interval After the measurement the snow is cleared from the board and the board is placed flush with the snow surface to provide an accurate measurement at the end of the next interval 4 Melting compacting blowing and drifting contribute to the difficulty of measuring snowfall 42 Distribution Snow covered trees in Kuusamo Finland Glaciers with their permanent snowpacks cover about 10 of the earth s surface while seasonal snow covers about nine percent 1 mostly in the Northern Hemisphere where seasonal snow covers about 40 million square kilometres 15 10 6 sq mi according to a 1987 estimate 43 A 2007 estimate of snow cover over the Northern Hemisphere suggested that on average snow cover ranges from a minimum extent of 2 million square kilometres 0 77 10 6 sq mi each August to a maximum extent of 45 million square kilometres 17 10 6 sq mi each January or nearly half of the land surface in that hemisphere 44 45 A study of Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent for the period 1972 2006 suggests a reduction of 0 5 million square kilometres 0 19 10 6 sq mi over the 35 year period 45 Records The following are world records regarding snowfall and snowflakes Highest seasonal total snowfall The world record for the highest seasonal total snowfall was measured in the United States at Mt Baker Ski Area outside of the city of Bellingham Washington during the 1998 1999 season Mount Baker received 2 896 cm 95 01 ft of snow 46 thus surpassing the previous record holder Mount Rainier Washington which during the 1971 1972 season received 2 850 cm 93 5 ft of snow 47 Highest seasonal average annual snowfall The world record for the highest average annual snowfall is 1 764 cm 57 87 ft 48 measured in Sukayu Onsen Japan for the period of 1981 2010 Largest snowflake According to Guinness World Records the world s largest snowflake fell in January 1887 outside present day Miles City Montana It measured 38 cm 15 in in diameter 49 Metamorphosis Fresh snow beginning to metamorphose The surface shows wind packing and sastrugi In the foreground are hoar frost crystals formed by refrozen water vapor emerging to the cold surface After deposition snow progresses on one of two paths that determine its fate either ablation mostly by melting or transitioning from firn multi year snow into glacier ice During this transition snow is a highly porous sintered material made up of a continuous ice structure and a continuously connected pore space forming together the snow microstructure Almost always near its melting temperature a snowpack is continually transforming these properties in a process known as metamorphism wherein all three phases of water may coexist including liquid water partially filling the pore space 4 Starting as a powdery deposition snow becomes more granular when it begins to compact under its own weight be blown by the wind sinter particles together and commence the cycle of melting and refreezing Water vapor plays a role as it deposits ice crystals known as hoar frost during cold still conditions 50 Seasonal snowpack Main articles Snowpack and Neve Over the course of time a snowpack may settle under its own weight until its density is approximately 30 of water Increases in density above this initial compression occur primarily by melting and refreezing caused by temperatures above freezing or by direct solar radiation In colder climates snow lies on the ground all winter By late spring snow densities typically reach a maximum of 50 of water 51 Snow that persists into summer evolves into neve granular snow which has been partially melted refrozen and compacted Neve has a minimum density of 500 kilograms per cubic metre 31 lb cu ft which is roughly half of the density of liquid water 52 Firn Main article Firn Firn metamorphosed multi year snow Firn is snow that has persisted for multiple years and has been recrystallized into a substance denser than neve yet less dense and hard than glacial ice Firn resembles caked sugar and is very resistant to shovelling Its density generally ranges from 550 kilograms per cubic metre 34 lb cu ft to 830 kilograms per cubic metre 52 lb cu ft and it can often be found underneath the snow that accumulates at the head of a glacier The minimum altitude that firn accumulates on a glacier is called the firn limit firn line or snowline 1 53 MovementThere are four main mechanisms for movement of deposited snow drifting of unsintered snow avalanches of accumulated snow on steep slopes snowmelt during thaw conditions and the movement of glaciers after snow has persisted for multiple years and metamorphosed into glacier ice Drifting Snow drifts forming around downwind obstructions When powdery snow drifts with the wind from the location where it originally fell 54 forming deposits with a depth of several meters in isolated locations 55 After attaching to hillsides blown snow can evolve into a snow slab which is an avalanche hazard on steep slopes 56 Avalanche Main article Avalanche A powder snow avalanche An avalanche also called a snowslide or snowslip is a rapid flow of snow down a sloping surface Avalanches are typically triggered in a starting zone from a mechanical failure in the snowpack slab avalanche when the forces on the snow exceed its strength but sometimes only with gradually widening loose snow avalanche After initiation avalanches usually accelerate rapidly and grow in mass and volume as they entrain more snow If the avalanche moves fast enough some of the snow may mix with the air forming a powder snow avalanche which is a type of gravity current They occur in three major mechanisms 56 Slab avalanches occur in snow that has been deposited or redeposited by wind They have the characteristic appearance of a block slab of snow cut out from its surroundings by fractures These account for most back country fatalities Powder snow avalanches result from a deposition of fresh dry powder and generate a powder cloud which overlies a dense avalanche They can exceed speeds of 300 kilometers per hour 190 mph and masses of 10 000 000 tonnes 9 800 000 long tons 11 000 000 short tons their flows can travel long distances along flat valley bottoms and even uphill for short distances Wet snow avalanches are a low velocity suspension of snow and water with the flow confined to the surface of the pathway 56 The low speed of travel is due to the friction between the sliding surface of the pathway and the water saturated flow Despite the low speed of travel 10 to 40 kilometers per hour 6 to 25 mph wet snow avalanches are capable of generating powerful destructive forces due to the large mass and density Snowmelt Snowmelt induced flooding of the Red River of the North in 1997 Many rivers originating in mountainous or high latitude regions receive a significant portion of their flow from snowmelt This often makes the river s flow highly seasonal resulting in periodic flooding 57 during the spring months and at least in dry mountainous regions like the mountain West of the US or most of Iran and Afghanistan very low flow for the rest of the year In contrast if much of the melt is from glaciated or nearly glaciated areas the melt continues through the warm season with peak flows occurring in mid to late summer 58 Glaciers Main article Glacier Glaciers form where the accumulation of snow and ice exceeds ablation The area in which an alpine glacier forms is called a cirque corrie or cwm a typically armchair shaped geological feature which collects snow and where the snowpack compacts under the weight of successive layers of accumulating snow forming neve Further crushing of the individual snow crystals and reduction of entrapped air in the snow turns it into glacial ice This glacial ice will fill the cirque until it overflows through a geological weakness or an escape route such as the gap between two mountains When the mass of snow and ice is sufficiently thick it begins to move due to a combination of surface slope gravity and pressure On steeper slopes this can occur with as little as 15 m 50 ft of snow ice 1 ScienceMain article Snow science Scientists study snow at a wide variety of scales that include the physics of chemical bonds and clouds the distribution accumulation metamorphosis and ablation of snowpacks and the contribution of snowmelt to river hydraulics and ground hydrology In doing so they employ a variety of instruments to observe and measure the phenomena studied Their findings contribute to knowledge applied by engineers who adapt vehicles and structures to snow by agronomists who address the availability of snowmelt to agriculture and those who design equipment for sporting activities on snow Scientists develop and others employ snow classification systems that describe its physical properties at scales ranging from the individual crystal to the aggregated snowpack A sub specialty is avalanches which are of concern to engineers and outdoors sports people alike Snow science addresses how snow forms its distribution and processes affecting how snowpacks change over time Scientists improve storm forecasting study global snow cover and its effect on climate glaciers and water supplies around the world The study includes physical properties of the material as it changes bulk properties of in place snow packs and the aggregate properties of regions with snow cover In doing so they employ on the ground physical measurement techniques to establish ground truth and remote sensing techniques to develop understanding of snow related processes over large areas 59 Measurement and classification See also Classifications of snow In the field snow scientists often excavate a snow pit within which to make basic measurements and observations Observations can describe features caused by wind water percolation or snow unloading from trees Water percolation into a snowpack can create flow fingers and ponding or flow along capillary barriers which can refreeze into horizontal and vertical solid ice formations within the snowpack Among the measurements of the properties of snowpacks that the International Classification for Seasonal Snow on the Ground includes are snow height snow water equivalent snow strength and extent of snow cover Each has a designation with code and detailed description The classification extends the prior classifications of Nakaya and his successors to related types of precipitation and are quoted in the following table 4 Snow pit on the surface of a glacier profiling snow properties where the snow becomes increasingly dense with depth as it metamorphoses towards ice Frozen precipitation particles related to snow crystals Subclass Shape Physical processGraupel Heavily rimed particles spherical conical hexagonal or irregular in shape Heavy riming of particles by accretion of supercooled water dropletsHail Laminar internal structure translucent or milky glazed surface Growth by accretion of supercooled water size gt 5 mmIce pellets Transparent mostly small spheroids Freezing of raindrops or refreezing of largely melted snow crystals or snowflakes sleet Graupel or snow pellets encased in thin ice layer small hail Size both 5 mmRime Irregular deposits or longer cones and needles pointing into the wind Accretion of small supercooled fog droplets frozen in place Thin breakable crust forms on snow surface if process continues long enough All are formed in cloud except for rime which forms on objects exposed to supercooled moisture It also has a more extensive classification of deposited snow than those that pertain to airborne snow The categories include both natural and man made snow types descriptions of snow crystals as they metamorphose and melt the development of hoar frost in the snow pack and the formation of ice therein Each such layer of a snowpack differs from the adjacent layers by one or more characteristics that describe its microstructure or density which together define the snow type and other physical properties Thus at any one time the type and state of the snow forming a layer have to be defined because its physical and mechanical properties depend on them Physical properties include microstructure grain size and shape snow density liquid water content and temperature 4 Satellite data Remote sensing of snowpacks with satellites and other platforms typically includes multi spectral collection of imagery 60 Multi faceted interpretation of the data obtained allows inferences about what is observed The science behind these remote observations has been verified with ground truth studies of the actual conditions 1 61 Satellite observations record a decrease in snow covered areas since the 1960s when satellite observations began In some regions such as China a trend of increasing snow cover was observed from 1978 to 2006 These changes are attributed to global climate change which may lead to earlier melting and less coverage area However in some areas there may be an increase in snow depth because of higher temperatures for latitudes north of 40 For the Northern Hemisphere as a whole the mean monthly snow cover extent has been decreasing by 1 3 per decade 62 The most frequently used methods to map and measure snow extent snow depth and snow water equivalent employ multiple inputs on the visible infrared spectrum to deduce the presence and properties of snow The National Snow and Ice Data Center NSIDC uses the reflectance of visible and infrared radiation to calculate a normalized difference snow index which is a ratio of radiation parameters that can distinguish between clouds and snow Other researchers have developed decision trees employing the available data to make more accurate assessments One challenge to this assessment is where snow cover is patchy for example during periods of accumulation or ablation and also in forested areas Cloud cover inhibits optical sensing of surface reflectance which has led to other methods for estimating ground conditions underneath clouds For hydrological models it is important to have continuous information about the snow cover Passive microwave sensors are especially valuable for temporal and spatial continuity because they can map the surface beneath clouds and in darkness When combined with reflective measurements passive microwave sensing greatly extends the inferences possible about the snowpack 62 Models Snowfall and snowmelt are parts of the Earth s water cycle Snow science often leads to predictive models that include snow deposition snow melt and snow hydrology elements of the Earth s water cycle which help describe global climate change 1 Global climate change models GCMs incorporate snow as a factor in their calculations Some important aspects of snow cover include its albedo reflectivity of incident radiation including light and insulating qualities which slow the rate of seasonal melting of sea ice As of 2011 the melt phase of GCM snow models were thought to perform poorly in regions with complex factors that regulate snow melt such as vegetation cover and terrain These models typically derive snow water equivalent SWE in some manner from satellite observations of snow cover 1 The International Classification for Seasonal Snow on the Ground defines SWE as the depth of water that would result if the mass of snow melted completely 4 Given the importance of snowmelt to agriculture hydrological runoff models that include snow in their predictions address the phases of accumulating snowpack melting processes and distribution of the meltwater through stream networks and into the groundwater Key to describing the melting processes are solar heat flux ambient temperature wind and precipitation Initial snowmelt models used a degree day approach that emphasized the temperature difference between the air and the snowpack to compute snow water equivalent SWE More recent models use an energy balance approach that take into account the following factors to compute Qm the energy available for melt This requires measurement of an array of snowpack and environmental factors to compute six heat flow mechanisms that contribute to Qm 1 Effects on human activitySnow affects human activity in four major areas transportation agriculture structures and sports Most transportation modes are impeded by snow on the travel surface Agriculture often relies on snow as a source of seasonal moisture Structures may fail under snow loads Humans find a wide variety of recreational activities in snowy landscapes Transportation See also Snowplow Snow affects the rights of way of highways airfields and railroads They share a common tool for clearing snow the snowplow However the application is different in each case whereas roadways employ anti icing chemicals to prevent bonding of ice airfields may not railroads rely on abrasives to enhance traction on tracks Highway Traffic stranded in a 2011 Chicago snowstorm Winter conditions on Ontario Highway 401 in Toronto due to a snowsquall In the late 20th century an estimated 2 billion was spent annually in North America on roadway winter maintenance owing to snow and other winter weather events according to a 1994 report by Kuemmel The study surveyed the practices of jurisdictions within 44 US states and nine Canadian provinces It assessed the policies practices and equipment used for winter maintenance It found similar practices and progress to be prevalent in Europe 63 The dominant effect of snow on vehicle contact with the road is diminished friction This can be improved with the use of snow tires which have a tread designed to compact snow in a manner that enhances traction However the key to maintaining a roadway that can accommodate traffic during and after a snow event is an effective anti icing program that employs both chemicals and plowing 63 The FHWA Manual of Practice for an Effective Anti icing Program emphasizes anti icing procedures that prevent the bonding of snow and ice to the road Key aspects of the practice include understanding anti icing in light of the level of service to be achieved on a given roadway the climatic conditions to be encountered and the different roles of deicing anti icing and abrasive materials and applications and employing anti icing toolboxes one for operations one for decision making and another for personnel The elements to the toolboxes are 64 Operations Addresses the application of solid and liquid chemicals using various techniques including prewetting of chloride salts It also addresses plowing capability including types of snowplows and blades used Decision making Combines weather forecast information with road information to assess the upcoming needs for application of assets and the evaluation of treatment effectiveness with operations underway Personnel Addresses training and deployment of staff to effectively execute the anti icing program using the appropriate materials equipment and procedures The manual offers matrices that address different types of snow and the rate of snowfall to tailor applications appropriately and efficiently Snow fences constructed upwind of roadways control snow drifting by causing windblown drifting snow to accumulate in a desired place They are also used on railways Additionally farmers and ranchers use snow fences to create drifts in basins for a ready supply of water in the spring 65 66 Aviation See also Ice protection system Deicing an aircraft during a snow event In order to keep airports open during winter storms runways and taxiways require snow removal Unlike roadways where chloride chemical treatment is common to prevent snow from bonding to the pavement surface such chemicals are typically banned from airports because of their strong corrosive effect on aluminum aircraft Consequently mechanical brushes are often used to complement the action of snow plows Given the width of runways on airfields that handle large aircraft vehicles with large plow blades an echelon of plow vehicles or rotary snowplows are used to clear snow on runways and taxiways Terminal aprons may require 6 hectares 15 acres or more to be cleared 67 Properly equipped aircraft are able to fly through snowstorms under instrument flight rules Prior to takeoff during snowstorms they require deicing fluid to prevent accumulation and freezing of snow and other precipitation on wings and fuselages which may compromise the safety of the aircraft and its occupants 68 In flight aircraft rely on a variety of mechanisms to avoid rime and other types of icing in clouds 69 these include pulsing pneumatic boots electro thermal areas that generate heat and fluid deicers that bleed onto the surface 70 Rail Railroads have traditionally employed two types of snow plows for clearing track the wedge plow which casts snow to both sides and the rotary snowplow which is suited for addressing heavy snowfall and casting snow far to one side or the other Prior to the invention of the rotary snowplow ca 1865 it required multiple locomotives to drive a wedge plow through deep snow Subsequent to clearing the track with such plows a flanger is used to clear snow from between the rails that are below the reach of the other types of plow Where icing may affect the steel to steel contact of locomotive wheels on track abrasives typically sand have been used to provide traction on steeper uphills 71 Railroads employ snow sheds structures that cover the track to prevent the accumulation of heavy snow or avalanches to cover tracks in snowy mountainous areas such as the Alps and the Rocky Mountains 72 Snowplows for different transportation modes Trucks plowing snow on a highway in Missouri Airport snow clearing operations include plowing and brushing Swiss low profile train mounted snowplowSnow roads and runways Snow can be compacted to form a snow road and be part of a winter road route for vehicles to access isolated communities or construction projects during the winter 73 Snow can also be used to provide the supporting structure and surface for a runway as with the Phoenix Airfield in Antarctica The snow compacted runway is designed to withstand approximately 60 wheeled flights of heavy lift military aircraft a year 74 Agriculture Satellite view of the Indus River showing snow in the Himalayas which feeds it and agricultural areas in Pakistan that draw on it for irrigation Snowfall can be beneficial to agriculture by serving as a thermal insulator conserving the heat of the Earth and protecting crops from subfreezing weather Some agricultural areas depend on an accumulation of snow during winter that will melt gradually in spring providing water for crop growth both directly and via runoff through streams and rivers which supply irrigation canals 1 The following are examples of rivers that rely on meltwater from glaciers or seasonal snowpack as an important part of their flow on which irrigation depends the Ganges many of whose tributaries rise in the Himalayas and which provide much irrigation in northeast India 75 the Indus River which rises in Tibet 76 and provides irrigation water to Pakistan from rapidly retreating Tibetan glaciers 77 and the Colorado River which receives much of its water from seasonal snowpack in the Rocky Mountains 78 and provides irrigation water to some 4 million acres 1 6 million hectares 79 Structures Snow accumulation on building roofs Snow is an important consideration for loads on structures To address these European countries employ Eurocode 1 Actions on structures Part 1 3 General actions Snow loads 80 In North America ASCE Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures gives guidance on snow loads 81 Both standards employ methods that translate maximum expected ground snow loads onto design loads for roofs Roofs Icings resulting from meltwater at the bottom of the snow pack on the roof flowing and refreezing at the eave as icicles and from leaking into the wall via an ice dam Snow loads and icings are two principal issues for roofs Snow loads are related to the climate in which a structure is sited Icings are usually a result of the building or structure generating heat that melts the snow that is on it Snow loads The Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures gives guidance on how to translate the following factors into roof snow loads 81 Ground snow loads Exposure of the roof Thermal properties of the roof Shape of the roof Drifting Importance of the building It gives tables for ground snow loads by region and a methodology for computing ground snow loads that may vary with elevation from nearby measured values The Eurocode 1 uses similar methodologies starting with ground snow loads that are tabulated for portions of Europe 80 Icings Roofs must also be designed to avoid ice dams which result from meltwater running under the snow on the roof and freezing at the eave Ice dams on roofs form when accumulated snow on a sloping roof melts and flows down the roof under the insulating blanket of snow until it reaches below freezing temperature air typically at the eaves When the meltwater reaches the freezing air ice accumulates forming a dam and snow that melts later cannot drain properly through the dam 82 Ice dams may result in damaged building materials or in damage or injury when the ice dam falls off or from attempts to remove ice dams The melting results from heat passing through the roof under the highly insulating layer of snow 83 84 Utility lines In areas with trees utility distribution lines on poles are less susceptible to snow loads than they are subject to damage from trees falling on them felled by heavy wet snow 85 Elsewhere snow can accrete on power lines as sleeves of rime ice Engineers design for such loads which are measured in kg m lb ft and power companies have forecasting systems that anticipate types of weather that may cause such accretions Rime ice may be removed manually or by creating a sufficient short circuit in the affected segment of power lines to melt the accretions 86 87 Sports and recreation Alpine skiing Main article Winter sport Snow figures into many winter sports and forms of recreation including skiing and sledding Common examples include cross country skiing Alpine skiing snowboarding snowshoeing and snowmobiling The design of the equipment used e g skis and snowboards typically relies on the bearing strength of snow and contends with the coefficient of friction bearing on snow Skiing is by far the largest form of winter recreation As of 1994 of the estimated 65 75 million skiers worldwide there were approximately 55 million who engaged in Alpine skiing the rest engaged in cross country skiing Approximately 30 million skiers of all kinds were in Europe 15 million in the US and 14 million in Japan As of 1996 there were reportedly 4 500 ski areas operating 26 000 ski lifts and enjoying 390 million skier visits per year The preponderant region for downhill skiing was Europe followed by Japan and the US 88 Increasingly ski resorts are relying on snowmaking the production of snow by forcing water and pressurized air through a snow gun on ski slopes 89 Snowmaking is mainly used to supplement natural snow at ski resorts 90 This allows them to improve the reliability of their snow cover and to extend their ski seasons from late autumn to early spring The production of snow requires low temperatures The threshold temperature for snowmaking increases as humidity decreases Wet bulb temperature is used as a metric since it takes air temperature and relative humidity into account Snowmaking is a relatively expensive process in its energy consumption thereby limiting its use 91 Ski wax enhances the ability of a ski or other runner to slide over snow by reducing its coefficient of friction which depends on both the properties of the snow and the ski to result in an optimum amount of lubrication from melting the snow by friction with the ski too little and the ski interacts with solid snow crystals too much and capillary attraction of meltwater retards the ski Before a ski can slide it must overcome the maximum value static friction Kinetic or dynamic friction occurs when the ski is moving over the snow 92 Warfare Main article Cold weather warfare See also Ski warfare Snow affects warfare conducted in winter alpine environments or at high latitudes The main factors are impaired visibility for acquiring targets during falling snow enhanced visibility of targets against snowy backgrounds for targeting and mobility for both mechanized and infantry troops Snowfall can severely inhibit the logistics of supplying troops as well Snow can also provide cover and fortification against small arms fire 93 Noted winter warfare campaigns where snow and other factors affected the operations include The French invasion of Russia where poor traction conditions for ill shod horses made it difficult for supply wagons to keep up with troops 94 That campaign was also strongly affected by cold whereby the retreating army reached Neman River in December 1812 with only 10 000 of the 420 000 that had set out to invade Russia in June of the same year 95 The Winter War an attempt by the Soviet Union to take territory in Finland in late 1939 demonstrated superior winter tactics of the Finnish Army regarding over snow mobility camouflage and use of the terrain 96 The Battle of the Bulge a German counteroffensive during World War II starting December 16 1944 was marked by heavy snowstorms that hampered allied air support for ground troops but also impaired German attempts to supply their front lines 97 On the Eastern Front with the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941 Operation Barbarossa both Russian and German soldiers had to endure terrible conditions during the Russian winter While use of ski infantry was common in the Red Army Germany formed only one division for movement on skis 98 The Korean War which lasted from June 25 1950 until an armistice on July 27 1953 began when North Korea invaded South Korea Much of the fighting occurred during winter conditions involving snow 99 notably during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir which was a stark example of cold affecting military operations 100 especially vehicles and weapons 101 Military operations in snow Bivouac of Napoleon s Grande Armee during the winter retreat from Moscow Finnish ski troops during the invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union Army vehicles coping with snow during the Battle of the Bulge of World War II Norwegian military preparations during the 2009 Cold Response exercise Navy SEALs training for winter warfare at Mammoth Mountain California Effects on ecosystems Algae Chlamydomonas nivalis that thrive in snow form red areas in the suncups on this snow surface Both plant and animal life endemic to snow bound areas develop ways to adapt Among the adaptive mechanisms for plants are dormancy seasonal dieback survival of seeds and for animals are hibernation insulation anti freeze chemistry storing food drawing on reserves from within the body and clustering for mutual heat 102 Plant life Snow interacts with vegetation in two principal ways vegetation can influence the deposition and retention of snow and conversely the presence of snow can affect the distribution and growth of vegetation Tree branches especially of conifers intercept falling snow and prevent accumulation on the ground Snow suspended in trees ablates more rapidly than that on the ground owing to its greater exposure to sun and air movement Trees and other plants can also promote snow retention on the ground which would otherwise be blown elsewhere or melted by the sun Snow affects vegetation in several ways the presence of stored water can promote growth yet the annual onset of growth is dependent on the departure of the snowpack for those plants that are buried beneath it Furthermore avalanches and erosion from snowmelt can scour terrain of vegetation 1 Animal life Arctic fox a predator of smaller animals that live beneath the snow Snow supports a wide variety of animals both on the surface and beneath Many invertebrates thrive in snow including spiders wasps beetles snow scorpionflys and springtails Such arthropods are typically active at temperatures down to 5 C 23 F Invertebrates fall into two groups regarding surviving subfreezing temperatures freezing resistant and those that avoid freezing because they are freeze sensitive The first group may be cold hardy owing to the ability to produce antifreeze agents in their body fluids that allows survival of long exposure to sub freezing conditions Some organisms fast during the winter which expels freezing sensitive contents from their digestive tracts The ability to survive the absence of oxygen in ice is an additional survival mechanism 102 Small vertebrates are active beneath the snow Among vertebrates alpine salamanders are active in snow at temperatures as low as 8 C 18 F they burrow to the surface in springtime and lay their eggs in melt ponds Among mammals those that remain active are typically smaller than 250 grams 8 8 oz Omnivores are more likely to enter a torpor or be hibernators whereas herbivores are more likely to maintain food caches beneath the snow Voles store up to 3 kilograms 6 6 lb of food and pikas up to 20 kilograms 44 lb Voles also huddle in communal nests to benefit from one another s warmth On the surface wolves coyotes foxes lynx and weasels rely on these subsurface dwellers for food and often dive into the snowpack to find them 102 Outside of EarthExtraterrestrial snow includes water based precipitation but also precipitation of other compounds prevalent on other planets and moons in the Solar System Examples are On Mars observations of the Phoenix Mars lander reveal that water based snow crystals occur at high latitudes 103 Additionally carbon dioxide precipitates from clouds during the Martian winters at the poles and contributes to a seasonal deposit of that compound which is the principal component of that planet s ice caps 104 On Venus observations from the Magellan spacecraft reveal the presence a metallic substance which precipitates as Venus snow and leaves a highly reflective substance at the tops of Venus s highest mountain peaks resembling terrestrial snow Given the high temperatures on Venus the leading candidates for the precipitate are lead sulfide and bismuth III sulfide 105 On Saturn s moon Titan Cassini Huygens spacecraft observations suggest the presence of methane or some other form of hydrocarbon based crystalline deposits 106 See alsoLexicon Eskimo words for snow The wrong type of snow Notable snow events 2007 Siberian orange snow Alberta clipper List of blizzards List of snowiest places in the United States by state Recreation Skiing Sled Snow angel Snow cannon Snowman Snowmobiling Winter sport Related concepts Freezing rain Frost Graupel Hail Ice Ice pellets Rime Sleet Snowbelt Science and scientists Snow hydrology Timeline of snowflake research Ukichiro Nakaya Snow structures Igloo Quinzhee Snow cave Snow groomingReferences a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Michael P Bishop Helgi Bjornsson Wilfried Haeberli Johannes Oerlemans John F Shroder Martyn Tranter 2011 Singh Vijay P Singh Pratap Haritashya Umesh K eds Encyclopedia of Snow Ice and Glaciers Springer Science amp Business Media p 1253 ISBN 978 90 481 2641 5 Hobbs Peter V 2010 Ice Physics Oxford Oxford University Press p 856 ISBN 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Anne Minard July 2 2009 Diamond Dust Snow Falls Nightly on Mars National Geographic News Archived from the original on September 17 2009 Agustin Chicarro Agustin September 22 2008 Mars polar cap mystery solved Spaceref com European Space Agency Retrieved December 8 2016 the temperature of the low pressure system is often below the condensation point for carbon dioxide so the gas condenses and falls from the sky as snow and builds up on the ground as frost Carolyn Jones Otten 2004 Heavy metal snow on Venus is lead sulfide Washington University in St Louis Archived from the original on April 15 2008 Retrieved August 21 2007 Carolina Martinez December 12 2006 Massive Mountain Range Imaged on Saturn s Moon Titan NASA Archived from the original on March 4 2016 External linksSnowat Wikipedia s sister projects Definitions from Wiktionary Media from Wikimedia Commons News from Wikinews Quotations from Wikiquote Texts from Wikisource Textbooks from Wikibooks Resources from Wikiversity United Nations Environment Programme Global Outlook for Ice and Snow Institute of Low Temperature Science Hokkaido University Swiss Federal Institute for Forest Snow and Landscape Research National Snow and Ice Data Center of the United States American Society of Civil Engineers ground snow loads interactive map for the continental US Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title Snow amp oldid 1053299120, wikipedia, wiki, book,

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