The ‘Magic’ Of Snow

A fresh blanket of snow brings a certain ambiance and beauty to the neighborhoods of Queens. After a fresh snowfall life becomes still. Most people either absolutely love or hate the snow. Personally I love the snow for both its beauty and the opportunity to have a snowball fight. Although many of us are familiar with the problems that the snow causes, we may not remember how snowflakes are formed. The unlimited combinations of factors in their formation is the reason for their infinite variety and uniqueness.

Snow begins with a tiny dust or pollen particle that comes into contact with water vapor high in the earth’s atmosphere. The water vapor coats the particle and freezes into a tiny ice crystal. This tiny crystal is the “seed” around which a snowflake will begin to grow. The molecules of freezing water naturally arrange themselves into a hexagonal (six sided) structure, which explains why a snowflake always has six sides. Ice crystals are considered minerals due to them having a definite chemical composition and an ordered internal structure during the solid phase.

The newly formed ice crystal is heavier than the surrounding air, causing it to fall. As it falls it collects more water vapor which freezes on the surface of the particle as hexagonal structures, increasing its size. Although all snowflakes are hexagonal, they do not all share the same pattern. Every snowflake has a unique pattern that is affected by different temperature and humidity conditions through which the snowflake falls. Snowflakes have an unlimited number of shapes and variations that they can take.— Scott Lakeram

Click here for digital edition
2018-01-01 digital edition