Scientists blog native Antarctica and administer a glimpse the what it"s choose to carry out research in the field. Check out their blog ...

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Icelights: answer to her burning questions about ice and also climate

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What is the Cryosphere?

When scientists talk about the cryosphere, they average the areas on earth where water is in its solid form, frozen right into ice or snow. Read more ...


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Once eye crystals form in the atmosphere, they prosper by taking in surrounding water droplets. The snowflakes we finish up see on the ground are an accumulation of these ice cream crystals. This magnified image of eye crystals was recorded by a low-temperature scanning electron microscopic lense (SEM). The pseudo colors commonly found in SEM pictures are computer system generated, and in this situation highlight the different flake formations.—Credit: agricultural Research Service, United says Department of Agriculture


Whether winter storms create snow relies heavily on temperature, however not have to the temperature us feel right here on the ground. Snow develops when the atmospheric temperature is in ~ or listed below freezing (0 levels Celsius or 32 levels Fahrenheit) and there is a minimum amount of humidity in the air. If the floor temperature is at or below freezing, the snow will reach the ground. However, the snow deserve to still reach the ground once the ground temperature is over freezing if the problems are just right. In this case, snowflakes will start to melt as they reach this higher temperature layer; the melting creates evaporative cooling which cools the air immediately approximately the snowflake. This cooling retards melting. As a general rule, though, snow will certainly not form if the ground temperature is at least 5 levels Celsius (41 levels Fahrenheit).

While it can be too heat to snow, it cannot be as well cold come snow. Snow can occur also at incredibly low temperature as lengthy as there is some resource of moisture and some way to background or cool the air. It is true, however, the most heavy snowfalls occur when over there is reasonably warm air close to the ground—typically -9 levels Celsius (15 levels Fahrenheit) or warmer—since warmer air deserve to hold more water vapor.

Because snow development requires moisture, very cold but really dry locations may seldom receive snow. Antarctica"s dried Valleys, for instance, kind the largest ice-free part of the continent. The dried Valleys are quite cold yet have an extremely low humidity, and solid winds aid wick any type of remaining moisture from the air. As a result, this incredibly cold region receives tiny snow.

Snow ~ above the ground

The character of the snow surface ar after a snowfall counts on the original type of the crystals and also on the weather problems present once the eye fell. For example, as soon as a snowfall is attach by solid winds, the snow crystals are broken into smaller fragments that can become much more densely packed. After a snowfall, snow might melt or evaporate, or it may persist for long periods. If eye persists top top the ground, the texture, size, and also shape the individual seed will readjust even when the eye temperature remains listed below freezing, or they might melt and refreeze end time, and also will eventually end up being compressed by subsequent snowfalls.

Over the winter season, the snowpack commonly accumulates and also develops a complicated layered structure consisted of of a selection of snow grains, mirroring the weather and climate problems prevailing at the time of deposition as well as changes in ~ the eye cover end time.

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How big can snowflakes get?

Snowflakes room accumulations of many snow crystals. Many snowflakes are much less than 1.3 centimeters (0.5 inches) across. Under specific conditions, usually requiring near-freezing temperatures, irradiate winds, and also unstable atmospheric conditions, lot larger and also irregular flakes can form, nearing 5 centimeters (2 inches) across. No regime measure that snowflake dimensions room taken, for this reason the specific size is not known.