116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Snow is a magical change of scenery — a chance to bundle up in your warmest clothing, go sledding, build a snowball, make snow angels or have a snowball fight.
But how does snow form?
Snow is formed high in the clouds from water vapor, which is water in gas form. When a cloud is cold enough, water vapor freezes to form ice crystals, according to Kids Britannica.
If the ice crystals are heavy enough, they can fall to the ground, clumping together to form snowflakes. One snowflake can contain as many as 100 ice crystals.
Cedar Rapids, along with most of Eastern Iowa, saw its first snowfall last month Nov. 14, a couple weeks earlier than normal, according to the Quad Cities National Weather Service office.
The average date for the first measurable snow of the season in Cedar Rapids is Nov. 23, and the area doesn’t usually see a full inch until around Dec. 1.
Snow covers about 23 percent of Earth’s surface either permanently or temporarily, according to Kids Britannica.
Snow falls in many places that get cold weather, mainly during winter. At the North and South poles, snow covers Earth year-round. Near the equator, snow falls only in the highest mountain regions.
The size and composition of a snowflake is often determined by air temperature. Snowflakes that fall through moist air around 32 degrees Fahrenheit will stick together to form bigger flakes, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. This can be heavy, hard to shovel snow.
Flakes that fall in colder temperatures are dryer, powdery snow that doesn’t stick together as well and is not ideal for activities like building a snowman.
No two snowflakes are exactly alike because each snowflake that falls takes a different path to the ground, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Although each snowflake has a six-sided shape, the ice crystals may branch off in different directions.
While all snowflakes are unique, they each resemble the familiar lacy pattern.
Snow can greatly affect climates and living things, according to the Kids Britannica. A cover of snow on the ground helps to keep the air cold. This happens because snow reflects, or bounces back, most of the sun’s heat.
A snow cover also can protect small plants from the effects of severe cold, according to Britannica. When snow melts in the spring, it provides fresh water for people and animals.
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