We just had our first snowfall here in [skipwords]New Jersey[/skipwords] last night (and my car is completely plowed in and I can’t leave the house anytime soon), so I thought it would be an opportune time to answer all your snow-related questions. If you’ve got one that I haven’t answered below, feel free to let me know and I’ll do my best to find you an answer!
1. We’ve had lots of rain this past month and I can’t help but think if it were just a little colder, all that rain would have been snow! When it rains an inch, how much snow is that?
Well, like the answer to many questions — it depends. The general rule of thumb is that 10 inches of snow equals one inch of rain. But this is not always the case. Snow does not always have the same consistency each time it falls. Sometimes snow is lighter and fluffier than at other times, causing large amounts of snow to equal very little amounts of rain. Other times, when the snow is wetter and denser, the ratio can be a lot closer together. So there will never be an exact amount of snow equal to a measure of rain.
2. What is a Nor’easter? Is it really a storm that comes from the north and from the east?
A Nor’easter is defined by the Weather Channel as: A cyclonic storm occurring off the East Coast of North America. These winter weather events are notorious for producing heavy snow, rain, and tremendous waves that crash onto Atlantic beaches, often causing beach erosion and structural damage. It is defined by me as a reason to call in sick and stay home.
Apparently, it is named for the strong northeasterly winds involved. Don’t you wish everything was so aptly named? (Like “buy one, get one free” should be called “buy one you never needed in the first place.”)
3. What is the record for the most snowfall in one snowstorm in the U.S. and where was it?
I would tell you, but it’ll make it more fun if you guess. Actually, scratch that. It won’t be more fun because the answer is obvious. It was in Alaska, where it snows for days on end in the winter. In February 1953, a whopping 187 inches of snow fell on Thompson Pass, Alaska, over the course of seven days. Now that’s a Nor’easter! (Wait, no it isn’t…)
4. Is it true that every snowflake is different?
We all heard this in elementary school, and my fourth-grade teacher used to compare us (her students) to those unique snowflakes. It made us all feel special at the time, but I think some of my classmates would be dismayed to find out that Nancy Knight of the National Center for Atmospheric Research found two identical-looking snowflakes in 1988. On the molecular level though, according to Caltech physics professor Kenneth Libbrecht, it is impossible for there to be two completely identical flakes because there are so many different layouts of water molecules. Ouch. All this science is hurting my brain. Better stick to lighter snow questions like…
5. Can you eat snow?
Yes, absolutely. Just make sure it’s not “yellow snow,” if you know what I mean. (Unless you’re making lemon slushies, of course.)
And there you have it, folks. All your most-pressing snow queries resolved. Now I have another one for you … who’s going to shovel mine?
ALSO ON MNN: How snow forms
Photo: ZUMA Press
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