The Ski Channel gets scientific with snow

Posted By: The Ski Channel on February 8, 2010 10:11 pm

For most people it’s just snow but for us ski enthusiasts there is more to it. I may have used ‘scientific ‘in the title although let’s start with the simple. Here is a look at the different types of frozen products from our sky. No lie, some of these were new to me. But with words like rime or graupal, you may be able to impress someone on the chairlift.

Rime- “Rime is that crunchy, rough snow that looks like popcorn or styrofoam that you notice plastered onto trees on windy mountaintops (making “snow ghosts”). Rime forms on the surface of the snow when super-cooled water in clouds freezes onto the snow surface, trees, chairlift towers or any solid surface. It usually forms when clouds rapidly rise over a mountain range. The air rises so fast that tiny water droplets can’t form snowflakes (or graupel in this case) fast enough and the water droplets actually cool well below the freezing level. When they touch something solid, they instantly freeze, thus the spikes grow INTO the wind (as opposed to wind loading in which drifts form on the downwind side). “

Info taken from:

Graupal- “Loose collections of frozen water droplets, sometimes called “soft hail.”

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Hail- “Hail usually starts as a frozen drop of water on a soil or pollutant particle. The frozen drop is repeatedly carried aloftand dropped by strong updrafts and down-drafts in a thunderstorm. As the hailstone rises and falls, super-cooled water droplets freeze to its surface, enlarging it.”

info taken from:

Snow crystals- “Individual, single ice crystals, often with six-fold symmetrical shapes. These grow directly from condensing water vapor in the air, usually around a nucleus of dust or some other foreign material. Typical sizes range from microscopic to at most a few millimeters in diameter.”

Snow flakes- “Collections of snow crystals, loosely bound together into a puff-ball. These can grow to large sizes (up to about 10 cm across in some cases) when the snow is especially wet and sticky. A snowflake consists of up to 100 snow crystals clumped together.”

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The simple, yet surprisingly enlightening folks.