Stories tagged snowflakes

The New York Times' Dot Earth blog has a cool new post: "The many faces of water in winter." It has a link to a post about snow's "fluff factor."

Andrew Revkin, the blogger, is asking readers to send in photos or video (via Flickr or YouTube) of "...parts of your environs that you treasure, that are imperiled, or that otherwise matter." Doesn't say they have to be of New York, and Minnesotans know a thing or two about beautiful places and water in winter or both.

Mar
22
2007

Super size me: With more concentrated efforts on researching the topic, scientists now believe that super snowflakes do exist. They can measure between three and six inches in width and be the size of table plates.
Super size me: With more concentrated efforts on researching the topic, scientists now believe that super snowflakes do exist. They can measure between three and six inches in width and be the size of table plates.
Spring is finally here and what better topic to bring up than snow, right?

A story in the New York Times this week is providing more evidence about “super snowflakes.”

For ages artists and writers have waxed poetically about huge flakes of snow. Hollywood movie producers and Hallmark card creators have used those images to depict winter. But they’re just figments of our imagination, right?

Hard scientific data is now being collected about the size of snowflakes, the researchers doing that work have been pleasantly surprised. They’ve found that snowflakes measuring from 2 to 6 inches wide regularly fall around the world. Some reports about the “super flakes” say that they’re so large – the size of saucers or plates – that their edges turn up and centers sag due to their weight.

A snowflake expert from the California Institute of Technology points out that there’s scientific basis that limits the size of snowflakes. But, he points out, large snowflakes may often break apart due to the pressures from high winds hitting them as they fall to the Earth.

For ages, scientists had never really measured the size of snowflakes. But on some recent research trips, researchers have seen snow falling that measured two or three inches in size. That’s spurred on more interest – and research – into the size of snowflakes.

In the future, some of that research may be done from space. NASA will be launching a global satellite in 2013 that will monitor global precipitation patterns. That technology will be able to gauge the moisture in each rain or snow fall, along with the size of the flakes falling.

Jan
22
2007

A Wisconsin snowflake: Photo NASA
A Wisconsin snowflake: Photo NASA

We've all heard that no two snowflakes are alike. But a scientist in Japan argues it ain't necessarily so.

As each water molecule freezes onto the forming ice crystal, a snowflake can take billions and billions of different shapes. But, each year, billions and billions of snowflakes fall to Earth. Over time, the number of flakes that have fallen exceeds the number of possible shapes, meaning that -- at least for the smaller, simpler flakes -- there must be some duplicates.

Of course, Cecil Adams addressed this topic with his usual wit and flair some time ago.