By Mary V. Tucker
“Snow, snow, not again.” And, “We’ve had enough of this white stuff!” are comments heard these days when it snows. So let’s look at snow, what it is, what’s bad and what’s good about snow.
Snow is a solid form of water that crystallizes in the atmosphere to form white or translucent ice crystals that fall to the earth in soft white flakes, covering about 23% of the earth’s surface either permanently or temporarily. The snow cover has a significant effect on climate, affecting plant, animal and human life. By increasing the reflection of solar radiation, snow interferes with the conduction of heat from the ground and induces a cold climate. Lower heat conduction protects plant life from lower winter temperatures; late snow melt delays growth of plants in spring.
Snowfalls are measured in inches. Thirteen inches of snow melts down, on average, to one inch of water, although the ratio of snow to water can vary widely. The average snowfall in the United States is 25 inches; in Delaware County it is 70 inches. In certain areas in Alaska and the Midwest the average snowfall can be as high as 28 feet.
There are many types of snow and snowfalls. Powdery snow is light and fluffy, snow which moves with the wind, forming snow drifts. Granular snow melts and refreezes, eventually forming masses called snow packs. This snow is good for making snowmen, snow forts, and snowballs. Identifying snowfalls, a light brief snowfall is called a flurry, intermittent snow is a snow shower, and a heavy snow with obscuring visibility is a blizzard.
As we adults “moan and groan” about heavy snowfalls with sidewalks, paths and driveways to be cleared, slushy, icy roads restricting travel, school closings and often damage to homes and outbuildings (roofs caving in), consider the benefits of snowfalls. Snow serves as a thermal insulator conserving the warmth of the earth, protecting the crops from subfreezing temperatures. Some agricultural areas depend on snow melting in spring to provide water for crop growth. In the south, snow that melts and refreezes on sensitive fruit such as oranges, grapefruit, and strawberries protects the fruit from exposure to lower temperatures. Snow is also an economic factor in locations of winter sports centers and surrounding villages like our own Andes. Visitors and tourists coming for skiing, cross country and downhill, for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, tobogganing, shopping and dining create employment opportunities by patronizing local businesses.
Last of all, the beautiful, clean snow renews the landscape, so let’s enjoy the snow while waiting for spring.~