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Let it Snow!

January 26, 2018

Categories: Nature Notes

By Wolf Ridge Naturalist

This week in the world of phenology we explored everyone’s favorite winter precipitation: snow!

In our exploration, we visited several locations along the North Shore. We delved deep, observing multiple strata from the fluffy upper layer to the subnivean zone. At each site, we counted the number of layers, measured the temperature of each layer, and compared crystal structure and size. The sites were varied in elevation and distance from Lake Superior.

Snow from the subnivean base layer at Murphy City site – note the rounded shape of the crystals.Based on our observations, we discovered more layers away from the shoreline and at higher elevations. Snow depth followed the same pattern. At all sites, the temperature increased as we measured closer to the ground, highlighting snow’s exceptional insulating powers! Crystal size showed a marked increase in lower snow layers. Crystal structure also changed, becoming solid columns rather than smaller plate-like flakes. Next time you are out on a winter jaunt, take time to stop and dig deep. Remember you cannot simply judge snow by its crusty exterior!