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The Science of Snow

The Science of snow

C/S/A: complete 12

Junior: complete 10

Brownie: complete 8

The first snowfall of the year is always exciting, isn’t it? You love crunching through the snow, making a snowman and hefting snowballs at your brother. But have you ever wondered how snow is made?

  1. The first question we should answer is how are snowflakes or snow crystals formed?

  2. What is Water Vapor?

  3. What is the difference between sleet and snow?

  4. Generally, snow presents us with a white appearance, but sometimes it can have a blue or even red appearance. What causes “blue snow” and ‘watermelon snow”?

  5. There are 3 different processes that govern the growth behavior of snow crystals. Faceting, Branching, and Sharpening. How do these processes differ and what effects do they have on the shape and size of snow crystals?

  6. A scientist born in the 1860s, Wilson Bentley, was one of the first people to examine snow crystals up close. He became famous for his photography of snow crystals, and there is even a book written about him! Try it yourself. Gather a piece of black craft foam and head outside. Scoop a few snowflakes on to your foam. Have a look at them under a magnifying glass. Try taking a few up-close pictures of the snow crystals. What do you see?

  7. When you were looking up-close at snow crystals did you notice that they all have 6 or 8 points and are usually perfectly symmetrical? What part of their formation process makes this possible?

  8. Snow crystals can be further classified into six basic patterns called: Needles, columns, plates, columns capped with plates, dendrites, and stars. Each type is the result of different atmospheric and temperature conditions within the cloud. Find a few pictures of the different patterns. How many of the patterns did you see while you were looking at your snow crystals?

  9. Record your findings from steps 3, 4, and 5. Share with your group and compare what you saw.

  10. Make your own snow crystal.

Pour 3 cups of sugar in to a microwave safe container.

Add 1 cup of water to the sugar and stir the container.

With help from and adult microwave your solution on high for 2 minutes.( you can also use a stovetop to heat the solution, just make sure to heat the solution until it is boiling). Use caution removing the solution from the microwave and stir it, again.

Microwave the solution for an additional 2 minutes on high, stirring afterwards.

Add several drops of food coloring and stir it into the solution.

Transfer the solution into a smaller glass jar.

Allow the solution to cool to room temperature.

Create an snowflake shape using pipe cleaners.

Wrap the end of the pipe cleaner around the center of a pencil.

Dip your snowflake into the solution.

Lay your snowflake on a sheet of parchment paper to dry.

Place the dried snowflake back into the solution carefully, avoiding the side and bottom of the jar.

Allow the solution and snowflake to sit for at least one week.

Pull the snowflake out of the jar and let it dry on the parchment paper.

As much fun as snow can be it can also be dangerous.

The most snow in one season occurred during 1998-1999 when 1,140 inches of snow fell on Mount Baker, Wash. That's 95 feet of snow!

11) What is a blizzard and how can you recognize blizzard conditions?

12) What is an avalanche, where are their most common occurrences and what causes them?

13) What is frostbite, what are the signs and symptoms and how can it be prevented?

14) What is lake effects snow, and how can it be a dangerous to some areas?

Although snow only occurs in certain parts of the world, it has far-reaching effects on regional weather patterns. By studying snow, how it forms, where it falls, and how the snowpack changes over time, scientists can help improve storm forecasting and learn more about how snow and weather interact.

Get outside and make and some snowy memories!