We spend most of the winter in snow science programs, stoking student curiosity about snowmelt, snowpack, the temperature of snow, and more. There is so much to be studied when it comes to snow. One of the first questions we address with our students is: what is snow? Here’s a short and easy to understand informational video we use in our lessons:

Once our students understand what snow is, they can then begin to delve into the complexities of snow science. For one thing, understanding snow is critical to understanding our climate. The National Snow & Ice Data Center writes that “Although scientists have already learned much about snow properties, they continue to study snow. For instance, the layers of very old snow in places like Greenland and Antarctica can reveal valuable information about past climate conditions.”

Many of our students become curious about temperature change in snow over time. Avalanche.org is run by the American Avalanche Association, who are dedicated to studying this natural phenomenon and exploring why it occurs. They report that, “large temperature gradients usually occur when cold, clear weather causes the snow surface to become very cold, or if the snow is especially shallow—or both.” A great graphic describing temperature change and explaining its significance can be found here.

Here are some more resources we really like for our snow science programs:

-UC Berkeley Research Center’s Central Sierra Snow Lab website
A detailed article from Worldatlas explaining what causes an avalanche
-A video from UCLA investigating how snow shapes warming in the Sierra Nevada

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