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10 Fascinating Facts About Snow That You Probably Didn't Know

Watermelon snow?

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1. There is a naturally occurring phenomenon called "snow doughnuts” and it's pretty awesome.

Washington State Dept of Transportation / Via Flickr: wsdot

Also called "snow rollers," snow doughnuts occur when a small amount of moist and sticky snow is picked up by the wind. This snow begins rolling, collecting more snow and eventually becomes cylindrical in shape.

2. A physicist has found a way to grow what he calls “identical twin” snowflakes in a lab.

Creative Commons / Via Flickr: piper

In nature, each snowflake faces a different turbulent path while travelling through the atmosphere, which gives each snowflake a unique symmetry. Hence the common saying about 'no two snowflakes are alike.' However, in a lab, Kenneth G. Libbrecht, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, has found a way to create two snowflakes with almost the exact same intricate shapes and patterns by growing them under the same conditions.

3. There’s a scientific reason why it always seems quieter after a snowfall.

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Although fewer people and cars out on the street could be a contributing factor to the decrease in noise, snow also plays a role. Snow is a great sound absorber. When there is a thick layer of fluffy snow, sound waves more easily absorb into it, and this reduces noise.

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4. However, snow can also help amplify noise.

Creative Commons / Via Flickr: piper

If the snow covering a road melts and refreezes, it will become hard and smooth. This new smooth surface actually helps to reflect sound waves. This new smooth surface actually helps to reflect sound waves, meaning sounds that are far away will now sound clearer and louder.

5. Snow can form in giant, thin, blade-like shapes called "penitentes."

Creative Commons / Via Flickr: twiga_269

Sublimation is defined as a process where snow and ice change directly into water vapor, without first melting into water. Penitentes, which are large structures of snow and ice, are created by this process. Penitentes are commonly found at places of high altitude, where the air is dry and the sun's rays help with sublimation. The peaks of snow are formed because there is a feedback loop. Some snow is sublimated, and then you get a little valley. Within that valley, the sunlight is even more concentrated and reflected, so it sublimates faster, and so on. The peaks can range in height from one to six metres tall.

6. Snow is not actually white. It's translucent.

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Snow is composed of ice crystals, which are actually translucent. Snow looks white because of how we see light. If you're wearing a blue shirt, your shirt will absorb every colour except for blue, and then reflect blue back out for people to see. Snow is similar, except for the fact that snow reflects all colours, because it has no colour of its own. When all colours are reflected, they add up to white.

8. Certain plants have adapted to survive in areas where there is snow year-round.

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For example, some plants may hold onto dead leaves for insulation, and trees in the Arctic may grow in specific shapes that help snow fall off their branches more easily. This ensures that heavy snow won't be left resting on the tree, potentially damaging it.

9. When there is lightning during a blizzard storm, it's officially called a “thundersnow,” and it’s incredibly rare.

The Weather Channel / Via youtube.com

Thundersnows are an unusual type of blizzard. They are rare instances when the temperature is low enough to produce snow (instead of rain), while there’s still enough turbulence in the atmosphere to create lightning and thunder.

10. And lastly, "watermelon snow" is a real thing.

Creative Commons / Via Flickr: bryanto

Where you find moisture, you can usually find something growing and snow is no exception. Watermelon snow (also known as "snow algae," "pink snow," or "red snow") is formed by Chlamydomonas nivalis, a species of green algae that thrives in freezing water. In addition to chlorophyll, this algae contains a secondary carotenoid pigment that turns the snow a pink colour. It is also rumoured to smell slightly sweet, a bit like watermelon. It is most commonly found at high altitudes.

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