Common Myths About Snow

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Let’s dive into some common misconceptions about snow and clear it all up…

One common myth is that the ground can be too warm for snow to accumulate.
This has been easily proven wrong, as recently as the October snowstorm from last year. As long as the air is cold enough for snow, and the snow comes down hard enough, it can accumulate at just about any temperature.
After a warm stretch of weather with temperatures in the 50s or even 60s, Connecticut has had its fair share of snow storms. Hey, we’ve even seen accumulating snow in May, so that has to say something!

Can it be too cold for snow?
If anything, as it gets very cold, the air becomes extremely dry. If it’s too dry, then yes, it cannot snow. In the real world, it really never gets too cold to snow.
Theoretically speaking, it could be too cold if we reached absolute zero…

Myth #3: Snow only goes away from melting.
Did you know that snow can also turn directly from a solid into a gas? It’s called sublimation. Even though this is a slow process, snow can literally disappear into the air over time.

No two snowflakes can be the same.
This may be up for debate, but think about it…
To our knowledge, there is a smallest finite particle. In theory, it’s possible for two snowflakes to be exactly the same, but these odds are incredibly low.

Climate change = less snow.
If anything, the threat of heavy snow has actually increased over the past 20 years or so. Think about it…1995-96 and 2010-11 were some of the snowiest winters of all time across parts of the Northeast. At the same time, we’ve had many massive nor’easters with intense snowfall.
If the global temperature keeps rising, sure, snow could eventually stop happening, but don’t expect that anytime soon. Warmer air provides more fuel for storms and stronger systems can dump more snow.

The groundhog knows best.
If the groundhog says we will have six more weeks of winter, doesn’t that mean more snow and cold?
According to the National Climatic Data Center, Phil has a 39% success rate. Considering he only has a 50% chance of being correct in the first place, that’s not so good. Another study out of Canada said that the rate was closer to 37%. Ouch. It turns out that he’s wrong more often than he is right.

Even though heavy snow is very common, it’s actually quite difficult to achieve official blizzard conditions.

In order to reach blizzard criteria, there must be…

  • Sustained winds or frequent gusts over 35 MPH
  • Visibility of 1/4 mile or less
  • Blowing or drifting snow

All of the above for three consecutive hours

In our case, most winter storms don’t have the steady, strong winds. We’ve had many snow storms with over a foot of snow, but since the wind criteria was not met, it technically wasn’t a blizzard.

The next time you hear someone call a storm a blizzard, see if they know the real definition of the term.

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Quincy

Quincy is a meteorologist and storm chaser who travels around the country documenting and researching severe weather. He has on-air experience with stations such as WTNH-TV in New Haven, CT and WREX-TV in Rockford, IL. He was most recently a digital meteorologist for weather.com. After achieving his B.S. degree in Meteorology at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) in 2009, he returned as a University Assistant to help produce weather broadcasts. He also gave guest lectures and worked on website design. He has over nine years of professional weather forecasting experience and his forecasts have been featured in newspapers and on radio stations in multiple states.

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