How well do you know snow?
How well do you know snow?
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Snow is much more than a bunch of flakes. Water crystal formation — a process that is affected by temperature, wind and more — has many variations. And once snowflakes hit the ground, they have many characteristics — some of them sculptural, some of them dangerous. Test your knowledge of this winter wonder.
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Q: What is newly fallen, uncompacted snow with fresh, loose ice crystals called?
Juan Carlos Labarca/flickr
Powder is the finely granular snow that's a favorite of many snowboarders. Champagne powder is the fluffiest kind, which is most common in the U.S. Rocky Mountains.
- Loose tea
Q: When snow falls in a ball instead of individual flakes, what is it called?
Graupel forms when upper-atmosphere fog freezes around a snowflake, forming ball-shaped precipitation, sometimes called snow pellets or soft hail.
Q: What is a ground blizzard?
A ground blizzard occurs when blizzard-like conditions form (high winds and blowing snow, even whiteouts) but no new snow falls.
- Snow that becomes ice when it touches the ground
- A blizzard that has little or no wind
- Already-fallen snow that gets blown around by strong winds
- A short-lived, but intense snowstorm
Q: In glaciated regions, tall, thin columns of hardened snow can be several feet tall. What are they called?
Penitents typically form in more arid areas, like the Dry Andes of Argentina (shown here) or the mountains surrounding Death Valley in California.
Q: What is a cornice?
A cornice usually forms on the edge of a ridge or cliff face and can overhang the slope or flatlands below it, which can be unsafe for skiers.
- A perfectly rounded snow formation
- A flat-topped bank of snow
- An overhang of ice and wind-borne snow
- A tree top that peeks through deep snow cover
Q: On what continent are megadunes found?
Megadunes, which are created by centuries of continuous winds shaping the snow, are found over a California-sized area in Antarctica. They are so large, they can only be seen using satellite imagery.
- North America
Q: What are these half-bowl snow depressions called?
Sun cups, which can be the size of dinner plates or the size of a small car, are caused by intense sunshine on snowcover.
- Sun cups
- Tea cups
- Cat paws
- Sunken rounds
Q: Are triangular snowflakes a natural occurrence?
Triangular snowflakes are rare, since they require temperatures near minus 2 degrees Celsius (28.4 degrees Fahrenheit), but they are found in nature.
- Yes, but they are only found in the upper atmosphere
- No, they can only be grown in a lab
Q: Pronounced irregular grooves and ridges are created by wind erosion and deposition. What are they called?
Sastrugi is a Russian word that describes the high-amplitude ridges seen here at the South Pole. Smaller, gentler versions of this same phenomena are called ripples.
Q: Which of the 4 main classes of snowflake look like this microscopic view?
Columnar snowflakes (this one is capped) are six-sided columns and are usually hollow in the center, making them lighter.
Q: What happens to falling snow that turns it to slush?
Slush is snow that has partially melted before it hits the ground, and then collects in watery puddles instead of forming snow cover.
- It freezes
- It picks up speed
- It partially melts
- It dissipates
Q: What is the name for a short-lived, intense fall of snow that results in significant accumulation?
A snowburst is a term coined by a SUNY Oswego professor in the 1960s to describe a snow event that is of short duration and heavy snowfall, with little wind, in which snow falls straight down.
- Snow carnival
- Snow day
You need a trip to the mountains, because you no nothing about snow! You don't know snow. You've got the snow basics down! You know your snow!
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