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 UNDERSTANDING SNOW

Snow is ice crystals formed around dust or other particles in the atmosphere. "Crystal" originates from the Greek word krystallos which means ice crystal. All snow crystals have six sides, but each individual snowflake has a unique pattern.

Even though no two snowflakes are the same, you can still categorize them in types of crystals. The most frequent snow crystals are needles, columns, plates, columns capped with plates, dendrites and stars. The actual type of crystal depends on the humidity and temperature when they are forming.

Snow is actually transparent (you can look through it). It is the many sides of the crystals that makes it appear white!

It can take up to 2 hours for a snowflake to reach ground. Even the heaviest snowflakes fall at only one mile per hour. About 23% of the Earth’s surface is permanently or temporarily covered with snow.

Although you think of the Arctic as a place where it snows a lot, it actually receives relatively little snow. In fact, in one year, more snow falls on the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, in Africa, than falls on many parts of the Arctic. Much of the American Arctic receives only 40 inches (100 cm) of fresh snow a year with the greatest amount between 66 1/2 and 75 inches falling on northern Labrador and on the eastern coast of Baffin Island.

These numbers are only approximate numbers, because it is very difficult to measure the snowfall due to strong winds that drive the snow.

But the snow that falls in these areas has the tendency to remain for some time. Some parts of the Arctic have snow all year round, other places are covered with snow for only 7 to 10 months a year.

The culture of many northern people has been influenced by snow - especially people like the Inuit. This is why they have so many different words describing snow - how it falls, how it appears on the ground and its different textures.

  • Karakartanaq Karakartanaq - crusty snow that breaks under foot
  • Qannialaag - light falling snow
  • Pukaangajuq - best snow for building an igloo
  • Anniu - falling snow
  • Api - ground snow
  • Qali - snow on the boughs of trees
  • Qamaniq - bowl like depression under tree
  • Siqoqtoaq - sun crust
  • Siqoq - smoky (drifting snow)
  • Anamana - space between drifts and obstruction
  • Upsik - wind beaten snow
  • Mapsuk - overhanging drift
  • Kaioglaq - sharply etched wind eroded surface
  • Tumarinyiq - ripple type drift
  • Kalutoganiq - arrow shaped snow drift
  • Kimoaqtruk - snow drift
  • Pukak - bottom snow layer (depth hoar)
  • Salumaroaq - smooth surface of fine particles
  • Natatgonaq - rough surface of large particles
  • Quinzhee - snow shelter

Does it make sense to you that the Inuit have so many words describing snow? Can you think of anything in your part of the world that have many names depending on its form? Do you have a lot of snow where you live?

To read on and discover more about snow, Click here.

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