It finally snowed!

On Thursday February 6th, 2014 I woke up with hopes that the forecast was accurate and we were finally going to get some precipitation, however, I remained cautiously optimistic due to the lack of water we had seen this winter. As I sat in a meeting that morning, next to a large picture window, I watched the snow begin to fly. Within an hour the snow was accumulating on the ground. My excitement was met with concern as I knew I had to drive through this storm in a vehicle that doesn’t handle well even with the slightest bit of variance in road conditions. The morning continued and while delivering our SECRETS program at one of the schools in The Dalles we were informed that the students would be going home early due to the increasingly hazardous road conditions. After leaving the school and driving home I passed a couple cars that had slid off the road and even had a couple of nervous moments myself while losing traction. When I finally arrived home I found our driveway buried in snow, which means it’s time to shovel. The snow on Thursday evening was so light and fluffy. Waking on Friday morning I was impressed with how much more snow had fallen overnight and how light the snow was still. I immediately jumped in my truck and headed to the mountain for a twelve-hour day of skiing! I felt like I was skiing in Utah or Colorado where the snow just blows around and explodes like champagne as you ski through it. Over the course of the weekend, as I continued shoveling and skiing, I noticed a change in the density of the snow. The snow was getting heavier and wetter and the skiing became more like passing through cream cheese. While I understood that this change in the snow was due to the change in the temperature I began wondering, “What is the science behind snow?”

After doing a bit of wondering along with some exploration I found some interesting, and easy to read, articles explaining how snow is formed and the different types of snowflakes that form. Many people are aware that in the Northwest if we have colder temperatures than the snow will be lighter. However, the reason for Colorado and Utah having their notoriously light snow involves several other factors such as humidity for example. One other fact that I learned is that water droplets freeze onto pollen or dust particles prior to the formation of a snowflake. If you or someone you know has been wondering about the creation of snowflakes and how we get different types of snowflakes I would encourage some further reading on the following links:

NOAA’s answer to how snowflakes form

CalTech’s answer to different types of snowflakes

Now that we have a base forming on the mountain we all need to hope that the precipitation will continue. Our region’s economic vitality relies largely on a healthy snow pack each year. It’s obvious that the ski resorts do much better when there’s snow but in the summer months our large industry of agriculture needs the runoff. Not to mention the ecological impact of having limited snow pack. So while we clean up after this past weekend’s storm let’s prepare for another and hope that we can make up for lost time (and precip) in December and January. Let it snow!

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