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15 Things You Never Thought You
Needed to Know About ... Snow

Snow is one of nature's most amazing, and breathtaking, feats. Few other weather systems are capable of causing such fury -- grounded planes, traffic jams, closed schools -- and such beauty -- snow-covered ski slopes, fields blanketed in fresh white powder and, of course, snowflakes falling on Christmas morning -- as snow.

Snowstorms hit the United States an average of 105 times a year.

Snow is also very interesting, more interesting than you may have thought, and the following facts are a perfect conversation piece to keep close with you during this winter season.

  1. There are an average of 105 snow-producing storms in the continental United States each year.

  2. Skiers have their own "snow language," which was created back in the 1900s to describe different snow conditions. Some of the earlier terms included "fluffy snow," "powder snow" and "sticky snow." Later terms include "champagne powder," "corduroy," and "mashed potatoes."

  3. Hundreds of people die from snow-related causes in the United States each year. Top causes include traffic accidents, overexertion, exposure and avalanches.

  4. The snowiest large city in the United States is Rochester, New York, with an average 94 inches of snow each year.

  5. About 70 percent of the annual snowfall in the United States falls during December, January and February. (Near the eastern Rocky Mountains, however, the snowiest months are often March and April.)

Snow can either muffle or amplify sounds, depending on its surface.

  1. The saying that "10 inches of snow contains one inch of water" is mostly a myth. Ten inches of snow can actually contain anywhere from 0.10 inches to four inches of water.

  2. Snow appears white because snow crystals absorb visible sunlight (which is white) and reflect it from countless tiny surfaces.

  3. Most snowflakes are less than one-half inch across, but they can reach up to two inches across.

  4. It's never too cold to snow, but most heavy snowfalls occur when it's 15°F or warmer (the air can hold more water vapor when it's warmer).

  5. 1Snow is an incredibly good insulator. Why? Fresh snow typically contains 90 percent to 95 percent trapped air that can barely move around, meaning heat transfer is greatly reduced.

  6. Icicles are more likely to form on the south side of buildings. This happens because snow that is facing south is able to melt during the day, then freeze again at night. (North-facing snow often does not melt because it doesn't get as much sunlight during the day).

Avalanches are most likely to run from December to April.

  1. It's possible, though rare, to have thunder and lightening during a snowstorm (and it's more likely to occur near the coast).

  2. A "Nor'easter" is a cyclonic storm that occurs off the east coast of North America. They're known for producing heavy snow, rain and huge waves.

  3. A thick layer of fresh, fluffy snow will absorb sound waves, making sounds less audible. However, as snow ages the surface can become smooth and hard. In this state, the surface will reflect sound waves, making sounds clearer and able to travel farther distances.

  4. Avalanches are most likely to "run" (slide down a slope) from December to April, but avalanche fatalities have occurred during every month of the year.

Recommended Reading

Are No Two Snowflakes Really Alike? (and Other Amazing Snowflake Facts & Pictures)

Can Joints and Knees that Ache Really Predict a Change in the Weather?


National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)

The Snow Booklet

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