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Why Different Regions Get Different Types of Snow

1 Nov 2017, 2:26 pm

One of the more interesting aspects of our favorite winter wonder is that it changes depending on where you are located geographically.

Snow can range from light and fluffy to so dense it’s almost water– but why?

Say it ain't snow! Minnesota residents woke up to this scene this morning!

Posted by WeatherNation on Friday, October 27, 2017

Snow Formation

In cold parts of the atmosphere, moisture exists in the form of tiny ice crystals. When there are enough of those tiny ice crystals present they start to collide and stick together. (this bit happens inside clouds) When enough of these crystal collisions occur, the mega crystal becomes to heavy and gravity drags it to the ground.

This is a really simplified explanation of how snow forms!

Denver’s Wet Snow vs Dry Snow

Snow Ratios

Believe it or not, not all snow is created equal. In fact, this is so true that we meteorologists use different water content to talk about different snow storms.

For example, a 10:1 ratio means that every 10 inches of snow equals 1 inch of water.
Snow ratio most directly correlates to temperature. Oversimplified by this table:

In fact, temperature has a direct affect on flake size as well:

Why are Snowflakes Bigger in Spring?

There are many other factors that go into snow ratios than just temperature. But for the sake of simplicity, we’ll keep it that simple and move on.

The Perfect Snow

It does exist, and although it could be argued that this is a matter of subjection– let me explain.

In a land called Utah, the perfect snow caps the jagged peaks of the mountains just outside of the capital city. And there is a lot that goes into the weather pattern that makes this happen.

Storms develop over the Pacific Ocean. As they move ashore, the Sierra Nevada Mountains steal a good chunk of the moisture from the storm. Because of temperatures and proximity to the Ocean, the snow tends to be a little more dense. The now drier storm system makes its journey from the mountains of California, across the desert, and into the Salt Lake Valley.
Because of the salt content of the Great Salt Lake, it doesn’t freeze– but it gets really cold. This creates a rather unique form of lake-effect snow!

As the lake gets colder throughout the season, the lake-effect snow becomes less dense. This means in the early season the mountains of the Wasatch Range get heavy snow (good ski base) and as the season progresses, the snow becomes something that we skiers and riders dream about!

To make matters better– the persistent storm pattern and open lake keeps the snow coming all year long, making it one of the snowiest places in the lower 48!

Lack of Ice, Means More Lake Effect Snow

Want Your Snow Explained?

Simply click on my name below and tell me what region you live in.

I would love to explain each region’s specific snow– but remember, it’s first com first serve!

For WeatherNation — Meteorologist Jeremy LaGoo

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