ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Snowflakes are not just those pretty shapes you see falling from the sky, or what people paste on their windows in the winter. Complicated processes change snowflakes to create all different kinds of snow. snowfall from light and fluffy to wet and heavy, has a lot to do with the type of hydrometer.
Two things are true if we are getting snow; it’s cold, and there’s moisture. Once you add a storm system, like a nor’easter, some lake effect, or a cold front, you get snow. Now let’s talk about what those “snowflakes” look like. As temperatures fall, the ice crystals form differently based on the physical processes going on in the cloud.
The typical snowfall ratio is 10/1, ten inches of snow would melt into one inch of rain. Heavy, wet snow means a lower snow ratio, say 5/1 or even 3/1. This snow is tough to shovel, sticks to everything, and is nasty on the roadways. Temperatures are often near 32 degrees.
On the other side, you’ve got light, fluffy snow. 20/1 sometimes 30/1. That’s got a on of air in it, is easy to shovel, impossible to make a snowball, and often comes with really cold air.
Dr. Ken Libbrecht, a physics professor at Caltech, manipulated temperature and humidity in order to form these snowflakes and photographed them. This shows the intricacies and magic that come with each individual snowflake.
There are many other factors that contribute to the type of snowflake, like different temperatures at different layers, rising motion, wind direction, lake effect, and more.