Too Cold To Snow

Ever heard the phrase “it’s too cold to snow”?  It’s something that is thrown out often enough, particularly in the northernmost parts of the states and probably in other parts of the world as well.  That phrase led me to wonder if there was such a situation where it really could be too cold to snow.  But first you have to figure out what snow is and what in our atmosphere has to happen for snow to fall.

Snow is defined as precipitation in the form of small, white ice crystals formed directly from water vapor of the air at a temperature of less than 32 degrees F ( 0 degrees C).    The three ingredients necessary for us to have snow are a temperature profile for snow to reach the surface (its got to be cold), saturated air (wet air), and enough lifting of saturated air to allow snow to develop aloft and fall to the surface (uh, what they said, meteorologists talk funny).

You have to wonder how it ever snows having learned all that, but it’s clearer why the Great Lakes region has so much “lake effect” snow (lake, wet air, right??!!!).  The colder the air, the drier it gets which translates to a lot of Arctic areas getting less snow than locations such as Montreal or Buffalo (they’re currently holding the US record for snow accumulation or should be).  So, ladies and gents, no, it can’t be too cold to snow unless its absolute zero (at which point snow or the lack thereof won’t be our biggest problem); however, the chances of snow diminish as the air gets colder and drier.

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