Have You Ever Wondered Why Snow is White?


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Over the past few days, snow has blanketed most of the country. Have you ever wondered why snow is white?  Bright marshmallow-colored snow blinds us with its gleaming white color because it reflects beams of white light. Instead of absorbing light, snow’s complex structure prevents the light from shining through its lattice formation.

A beam of white sunlight entering a snow bank is so quickly scattered by a zillion ice crystals and air pockets that most of the light comes bouncing right back out of the snow bank. What little sunlight is absorbed by snow is absorbed equally over the wavelengths of visible light thus giving snow its white appearance.

So while many natural objects get their blue, red, and yellow colors from absorbing light, snow is stuck with its white color because it reflects light.

Here are some fun facts about snow! Did you know?

– Snow can actually be seen in several different colors. Snow can be red if the air during the snow formation contains red dust particles. Snowflakes forming around these tainted dust particles take on a reddish color. Red snow is found in those parts of Europe where the air is filled with dust particles from the red sands of the Sahara desert. In addition, certain types of algae stain snow yellow, purple, orange, green, and red. In fact, some people believe that the red algae that taints snow red actually looks and tastes like watermelon!

– The word albedo is based on the Latin word for white. Albedo refers to the amount/percentage of light an object reflects. For instance, the albedo of water is low while the albedo of snow if high.

– No two snowflakes have exactly the same shape.

– During a snowstorm, if the air temperature rises above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the snow will melt and fall as rain.

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