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Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:43 PM

Question about the temperature of snow

My husband claims that he was taught as a child that the temperature of snow doesn't go below 32 degrees. I don't understand how this could be true. I told him that we were given all kinds of misinformation as kids that scientists have since proven wrong, so maybe that's the case with his snow theory. Are there any experts here who could explain this to me?

We were discussing this because I had told him that there's no way that I would go to Time's Square on New Year's Eve when the temperature is so low. Actually I have no desire to ever go because it sounds like a nightmare to me. Apparently you have to get there about 12 hours early and you can't sit down at all, for the whole time, and there are no restrooms. I visited New York City last year and was astounded at the lack of public restrooms, even in restaurants where we dined.

Anyway, one thing led to another in our conversation about the temperature of snow. I would think that the temperature of snow would be the same as the temperature of the air surrounding it.

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 17 replies Author Time Post
Reply Question about the temperature of snow (Original post)
Rorey Jan 2018 OP
NRaleighLiberal Jan 2018 #1
Rorey Jan 2018 #3
Xipe Totec Jan 2018 #2
Rorey Jan 2018 #5
longship Jan 2018 #4
Rorey Jan 2018 #6
dixiegrrrrl Jan 2018 #13
Rorey Jan 2018 #14
TexasProgresive Jan 2018 #7
Rorey Jan 2018 #9
marylandblue Jan 2018 #8
TreasonousBastard Jan 2018 #10
Rorey Jan 2018 #11
PoindexterOglethorpe Jan 2018 #12
BigmanPigman Jan 2018 #15
left-of-center2012 Jan 2018 #16
Callmecrazy Jan 2018 #17

Response to Rorey (Original post)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:47 PM

1. Since snow is a solid form of water, which freezes at 32 degrees F, strickly speaking

the temp of snow is 32. As soon as the temp rises one degree, at 33, it goes to the melted form - water.

Snow is also a good insulator, which is why during avalanches even when temps are much lower, being under snow protects from the extreme cold.

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:56 PM

3. But can't snow also be lower than 32?

If you filled a box with snow and put the box in a freezer set at 0, wouldn't the snow eventually be zero?

I know that snow is mostly air. I related a story to my husband about how I had heard about how someone in North Dakota had survived outside om a blizzard by climbing into a snowbank. Animals burrow into snow to keep warm. I just don't think he is correct in that snow never gets below 32 degrees.

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Response to Rorey (Original post)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:47 PM

2. Perhaps he means that it does not go above 32 degrees nt

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Response to Xipe Totec (Reply #2)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:58 PM

5. I don't think he meant that.

He specifically said below. He's smart about many things, but about other things he's ignorant. Example: He voted for 45.

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Response to Rorey (Original post)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:57 PM

4. Once frozen, ice can be any temperature below freezing.

And snow is ice. Period!

A good example is Pluto. As discovered by New Horizon, Pluto has ice mountains! They are certainly colder than 32F. Snow is just small scaled ice.

This myth is busted.


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Response to longship (Reply #4)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:59 PM

6. That's my thought too.

My husband doesn't like to have his long-held beliefs dispelled, so he won't listen to reason on this, I'm sure.

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Response to Rorey (Reply #6)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 02:50 PM

13. Do you have snow outside? Do you have a thermometer?

Problem solved.

And I know exactly what you are going thru with this....... discussion.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #13)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 02:57 PM

14. We have no snow.

We're very dry here. We've had a little snow in the past month, but not enough to measure and there's none on the ground now. Right now it's 14 degrees, so if we had some snow it would be a perfect time to end the discussion.

Yeah, I don't know why I discuss anything with him. He's a stubborn old chauvinist, so even if I present him with irrefutable proof, he won't accept.

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Response to Rorey (Original post)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 01:03 PM

7. I've heard that it can be too cold to snow

but I don't believe that either.

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Response to TexasProgresive (Reply #7)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 01:08 PM

9. I heard that too, but...

I thought it was that it's less likely to snow when it gets very, very cold.

Thanks! Now I have another question to ponder today.

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Response to Rorey (Original post)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 01:06 PM

8. If you heat up ice to melt it

It's temperature will pause at 32 degrees until it fully melts, because the melting process requires energy. Also, if you mix ice and water in a glass at room temperature, the temperature of both will go to 32 degrees until the ice melts.

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Response to Rorey (Original post)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 01:29 PM

10. Logic would say that snow (or any water form) would tend to be at the temperature...

of its surroundings, like pretty much any other substance. (One would think Antarctic snow would be pretty damn cold.)

Proving it from the warmth of my living room is something else, though.

This should help:

https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/snow/science/characteristics.html

Snow depth and temperature

The snow surface temperature is controlled by the air temperature above. The colder the air above, the colder the snow layers near the surface will be, especially within the top 30 to 45 centimeters (12 to 18 inches). Snow near the ground in deeper snowpack is warmer because it is close to the warm ground. The ground is relatively warm because the heat stored in the ground over the summer is slow to dissipate. In addition, snow is a good insulator, just like the insulation in the ceiling of a house, and thus slows the flow of heat from the warm ground to the cold air above.

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Response to TreasonousBastard (Reply #10)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 01:34 PM

11. Thank you. I agree with logic.

And science.

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Response to Rorey (Original post)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 01:40 PM

12. Just think about it.

If the air and ground temperatures are below 32, the snow on top would have to be colder, and would almost inevitably be the same temp as the ground and/or air.

As for the melting temp of snow, sometimes I wonder. My back yard has a fence a bit over five feet high on the south side, so it casts a shadow that lasts for several months during the winter. Many times after it has snowed and warmed up into the 40's or even 50's, the snow will linger because it gets no sun. I suppose the explanation would be that the snow in the shadow creates a micro-climate, keeping that temperature below freezing, so the snow is slow to melt.

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Response to Rorey (Original post)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 03:22 PM

15. When I grew up and later as a teacher I read

"The "Little House" books by Laura Installs Wilder and learned a lot about all sorts of things. One thing that their family did while living in South Dakota during a long, hard Winter was that snow can act as an insulator. You can build a cave, tunnel, even an igloo (not in her books). If it is below freezing outside but you have a ton of snow and wind the snow will keep colder air and wind out and your body heat and breath will create a layer of ice for further insulation. That is what the books said and it makes sense.

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Response to Rorey (Original post)

Mon Jan 1, 2018, 03:53 PM

16. Someone once told me ...

... it doesn't snow when the air temperature is below freezing.

I spent a lot of time in Canada and Maine when it was way below freezing temps,
and snowing.

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Response to Rorey (Original post)

Wed Jan 3, 2018, 12:59 PM

17. I was told that it only snows between 20 and 40deg.F

I found that to be true.

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