Let It Snow!
- Friday, December 14, 2012
Did You Know...?
When you look in the sky and see a cloud, you are actually looking at a large mass of tiny water droplets or frozen water crystals that are suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. These droplets of water rise into the air through the process of evaporation.
Plants release moisture during photosynthesis, and humans release moisture into the atmosphere when they exhale. Once they are in the air, the microscopic droplets of water often adhere to tiny airborne particles of dust and sea salt. They rise from the surface of the Earth as the sun warms the surrounding air (creating lift) or as a warmer air mass encounters a colder air mass and rises above it. As the air rises, the particles expand as the pressure around them decreases. This process requires energy, and as that energy is expended, the air cools, which condenses the water droplets into tighter masses. When billions of water droplets combine in such a way, they form a visible cloud. As the temperature in a cloud cools to around 14 degrees Fahrenheit, some of the water droplets begin to freeze. Once an ice crystal is formed, other super-cooled droplets of water attach to it and begin freezing, forming a lattice-shaped crystal commonly referred to as a snowflake.
As snowflakes increase in size, gravity begins exerting its pull and snowflakes begin to fall from the clouds. The speed at which they fall can vary greatly, ranging from a gentle drop of 1.5 miles per hour to a more rapid fall of up to 9 miles per hour. It is often said that no two snowflakes are alike. Is this true? Most scientists say yes, at least when describing larger, complex snowflakes (as opposed to small snow crystals). The variables involved in the formation of a snowflake are truly staggering. In fact, some scientists claim there are more possible ways to join water droplets into snowflakes than there are atoms in the universe! The world record for the area that received the most snow in a single winter is held by Mount Baker in Washington State. In the winter of 1998–1999, this volcanic peak that rises 10,775 feet above the waters of Puget Sound received a staggering 1,140 inches— that’s more than 95 feet of snow!
Copyright, 2011. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine, Winter 2010-11. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
As the publisher of the award-winning Draw•Write•Now® series and the president of Barker Creek Publishing, Inc., Carolyn Hurst has spent the past fifteen years researching how children learn to draw and the benefits of teaching directed drawing. Visit Barker Creek’s website at www.BarkerCreek.com, or email Carolyn at Publisher@BarkerCreek.com.
Publication date: December 14, 2012
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