I’m not going to lie, the snow certainly has some nerve to arrive this early in the season. But since it’s here, we should look at the chemistry behind snowflakes. Let’s learn some SCIENCE!
Hey, where are you going? This is cool, I promise!
According to the American Chemical Society, all snowflakes start as a humble dust particle encased in ice and are individually shaped by the temperature and environmental conditions as they fall to the ground. It’s the variety in conditions that lead to the incredible differences seen in each flake.
Researchers have even developed a camera that takes multi-angle photographs of single snowflakes in free-fall to produce 3D images and measure fall speed. Understanding snowflake mass, diameter, and fall speed can improve cold weather forecasting models.
Individual snowflakes might seem harmless, but when they get together they can really pack a punch. Scientists studying earthquakes in California found that accumulated snow and water can deform the earth’s crust, leading to increased seismic activity. That’s some powerful snow.