Science Project:

Too Cold To Snow?

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Generally when people say it’s too cold to snow, they mean that there is not enough warm air in the environment to create lift. When it is very cold – below 0 degrees Fahrenheit – the atmosphere is usually too stable to create lift. Colder air also holds less moisture than warmer air which also prevents snow from forming.

Problem:

How do winter storms form? What is the relationship between temperature, moisture and snow?

Materials:

  • Internet access
  • If internet access is not available, an archive of old newspapers can be used.
  • Notebook and pencil

Procedure

  1. Create a four-column table with column headings for the date, high temperature, low temperature and precipitation.
  2. Decide which location you would like to study.Your location(s) should be places where there good records kept and where it snows a lot.Some areas where the snowfall is the greatest in the U.S. are Tahoe City, CA, Boulder, CO, Buffalo, NY, Syracuse NY, and Boston, MA.There are other cities that are far snowier, but records may not be as well kept as in these urban areas.
  3. Pick a winter month. In your location. Using archived newspapers found online, check the weather and temperature for every day in the month. You may need to do a second month to get sufficient data.
  4. Another way to access this data is to use the “Interactive Snow Operation” mapping tool made by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). This map allows you to focus in on a particular geographic region and access data on snowfall and temperature. By clicking on the drop-down menu in the upper left hand corner that is labeled “Select Physical Element”, you can select the daily average temperature and the snow precipitation, both found under “Daily Driving Data” found in the middle of the menu. Under “Select Date,” systematically enter the date and then get the temperature and snowfall data for the area you are interested in. Repeat this for every day over a one or two month time period.
  5. After you have prepared your data chart, begin to analyze your data. Graph your data, with the y-axis representing temperature and the x-axis representing date. What was the average high and low temperature during snowy periods? Was this warmer or colder than the rest of the days in the month? If there are very cold days, does it tend to snow on those days? Are there any other trends that distort your data such as seasonal temperature shifts?
Author: Cy Ashley Webb
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