It’s white, consists of crystals, tastes like nothing and is cold – these are probably facts that everyone knows about snow. However, there’s a lot more to know about the “white highlight” of each winter. SnowTrex has 12 extraordinary facts about snow for you.
1. The World Record Snowflake
The Guinness Book of World Records reports on the largest snowflake ever observed: It is said to have had a diameter of 38 centimetres and to have fallen in 1887 in Montana, USA. For comparison: common snowflakes have an average diameter of about 5 millimetres.
2. Screaming Snowflakes
Small air bubbles are enclosed in snowflakes, which cause them to make a shrill sound when they fall into the water. Since this sound has a frequency of 50 to 200 kHz, the human ear cannot hear the snowflake’s sound.
3. Snowflakes are (Almost) Unique
Snow crystals occur in countless variations: two snow researchers photographed 6,000 variations alone for an atlas. How many more there are and whether snowflakes are really unique is a matter of controversy.
4. Snow Crystals Always Have a Basic Hexagonal Shape
Mathematically speaking, it is possible for one snowflake to resemble another, but we do not know this for certain. What is certain is that all snow crystals share a basic hexagonal shape. This has to do with the structure of the water molecule, i.e. with the position of the oxygen atom and the two hydrogen atoms.
5. Glass Ball with Snow Effect
You can find them in every souvenir shop these days: snow globes. These “glass balls with snow effect” were invented by the Austrian toolmaker Erwin Perzy at the end of the 19th century. He was also the one who patented them.
6. Snow Needs Bacteria
Snow only forms when the air has a certain amount of pollution. Only through so-called “crystallisation nuclei” does the rising water vapour change its aggregate state. Some people therefore also believe that artificial snow is contaminated. However, this is not always true: In Germany, for example, chemical additives are prohibited, but the crystallization nuclei (killed bacteria, for example) are absolutely necessary.
7. Corn Can Become Artificial Snow
If Old Man Winter has been a bit stingy, then ski areas can help with artificial snow made from water. Theoretically, however, they could also spray artificial snow made from corn, potato starch or wheat semolina. A small disadvantage for hiking fans: this snow does not melt.
8. Snow Absorbs Sound
In a snowy environment, everything seems quieter. Not only does it seem that way – it’s scientifically proven! The air in the snow causes sound to be absorbed and makes noises sound quieter.
9. Filigree Snowflakes Like It Warm
The shape of snow crystals depends largely on the temperature. At very cold temperatures, rather clumsy snowflakes fall, while at less cold temperatures, very well-shaped, star-shaped snow crystals fall.
10. Less Than 100 Words for Snow
There is a widespread belief that the Inuit have countless words for snow – this is a mistake! In fact, there are far fewer words for snow and it’s only through various media outlets that the opposite has been emphasied over the last century. In 1911, the ethnologist and linguist Franz Boas reported on just four terms.
11. Snow Can Be Red
Anyone who assumes that snow is only white is mistaken. Snow can also be red, referred to as “blood snow”. This reddish, old snow can be observed during the summer in the polar regions or in high mountains and contains single-celled algae, which give it its reddish colour.
12. Snow Independent of Weather Conditions
Snow doesn’t necessarily fall just for weather-related reasons. If industrial plants emit water vapour and other emissions into the air, this can lead to so-called “industrial snow”. Here, one should really refrain from greeting the snowfall with an open mouth and an outstretched tongue.
Not enough facts for you? SnowTrex has more Top 10 lists available!
FAQs about snow
This question is controversial, but it can be said that they occur in countless variations.
Snow crystals always have a basic hexagonal shape.
Yes, the air in the snow absorbs noise.