Ripening Snow

Now that snow melting is underway, you might like to learn a few things about what exactly is going on out in the snow.  For snow to melt, the temperature of the snow must be above 32 degrees.  This is not the same as the temperature of the air.  The temperature of a pile of snow is obviously below freezing or else it would be melted. Warm air melts snow on the edge of the piles, where it drips down into the pack and refreezes, leading to a denser, slightly warmer snow pack.  Eventually, the pack becomes saturated and the melted water begins to run off from the bottom of the snow, along the ground.

But this all takes time.  It takes much less time if the weather remains humid during the melt.  If the dew point temperature stays above 32 degrees, then humidity in the air cools and condenses onto the snow, which raises its temperature, resulting in faster melting.  Dry air causes snow to melt much more slowly.

1 Response

  1. david burrous

    so when it is like oh lets say 45? and the snowpack is 33 or so it will melt faster? is that why when it stays above freezing 24/7 it really melts and fogs up? very interesing

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