How to

15 August 2016

Can it ever be Too Cold to Snow?

We have all, at some point in our lives, been told the seemingly nonsensical line of, “It’s too cold to snow today". With one sentence, the hopes of school kids around the country were dashed as they realised there was little chance of a snow day after all, but was it ever actually true?

In simple terms, the answer to that is no, kind of. Allow me to clarify…

There are many variables affecting the probability of snowfall. A temperature low enough for water vapour to freeze is, of course, fairly vital, but other factors such as humidity and the lifting of air currents also play a major role.

For the purposes of this article, humidity will be our focus. You see, while it can never really be cold enough to prevent snow, discounting of course absolute zero where all molecular energy is lost, it can be too dry.

When the temperature of air drops, so does its saturation point, meaning that cold air can hold much less water. This is the basic science behind the slightly misunderstood saying of “too cold to snow”. The temperature itself does not prevent the formation of ice crystals; rather it prevents the air from holding enough water to create any meaningful level of snowfall.

While this isn’t exactly a ground-breaking revelation, it could be a handy piece of knowledge to possess at the next pub quiz.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.