Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member All Forums Issue Forums Culture Forums Alliance Forums Region Forums Support Forums Help & Search


(8,441 posts)
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:43 PM Jan 2018

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.

17 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
Highlight: NoneDon't highlight anything 5 newestHighlight 5 most recent replies
Question about the temperature of snow (Original Post) Rorey Jan 2018 OP
Since snow is a solid form of water, which freezes at 32 degrees F, strickly speaking NRaleighLiberal Jan 2018 #1
But can't snow also be lower than 32? Rorey Jan 2018 #3
Perhaps he means that it does not go above 32 degrees nt Xipe Totec Jan 2018 #2
I don't think he meant that. Rorey Jan 2018 #5
Once frozen, ice can be any temperature below freezing. longship Jan 2018 #4
That's my thought too. Rorey Jan 2018 #6
Do you have snow outside? Do you have a thermometer? dixiegrrrrl Jan 2018 #13
We have no snow. Rorey Jan 2018 #14
I've heard that it can be too cold to snow TexasProgresive Jan 2018 #7
I heard that too, but... Rorey Jan 2018 #9
If you heat up ice to melt it marylandblue Jan 2018 #8
Logic would say that snow (or any water form) would tend to be at the temperature... TreasonousBastard Jan 2018 #10
Thank you. I agree with logic. Rorey Jan 2018 #11
Just think about it. PoindexterOglethorpe Jan 2018 #12
When I grew up and later as a teacher I read BigmanPigman Jan 2018 #15
Someone once told me ... left-of-center2012 Jan 2018 #16
I was told that it only snows between 20 and 40deg.F Callmecrazy Jan 2018 #17


(59,910 posts)
1. Since snow is a solid form of water, which freezes at 32 degrees F, strickly speaking
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:47 PM
Jan 2018

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.


(8,441 posts)
3. But can't snow also be lower than 32?
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:56 PM
Jan 2018

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.


(8,441 posts)
5. I don't think he meant that.
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:58 PM
Jan 2018

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


(40,416 posts)
4. Once frozen, ice can be any temperature below freezing.
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:57 PM
Jan 2018

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.


(8,441 posts)
6. That's my thought too.
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 12:59 PM
Jan 2018

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


(60,010 posts)
13. Do you have snow outside? Do you have a thermometer?
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 02:50 PM
Jan 2018

Problem solved.

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


(8,441 posts)
14. We have no snow.
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 02:57 PM
Jan 2018

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.


(8,441 posts)
9. I heard that too, but...
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 01:08 PM
Jan 2018

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.


(12,344 posts)
8. If you heat up ice to melt it
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 01:06 PM
Jan 2018

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.


(43,049 posts)
10. Logic would say that snow (or any water form) would tend to be at the temperature...
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 01:29 PM
Jan 2018

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:


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.


(25,597 posts)
12. Just think about it.
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 01:40 PM
Jan 2018

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.


(51,259 posts)
15. When I grew up and later as a teacher I read
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 03:22 PM
Jan 2018

"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.


(34,195 posts)
16. Someone once told me ...
Mon Jan 1, 2018, 03:53 PM
Jan 2018

... 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.

Latest Discussions»Culture Forums»Weather Watchers»Question about the temper...