Weird Snow

January 16, 2018
A smile in every snowflake

It’s good to know
that the snow
is happy to see us too.

Jesse & Bekah Swope

It snowed in the Rockies last month—two weeks early. Yes, I know the folklore: “The chill is here, near and far, in all the months that have an r.”

Still, in September I want to see colorful falling leaves, not white stuff on my driveway.

Click to expand snowfall map.
When does the first snow usually arrive in your state? Here in the West, it came two weeks early.

As I contemplated snow, I found there are many of weird facts about our winter precipitation.

For example:

  • A single snowstorm can drop 39 million tons of snow, carrying the energy equivalent to 120 atom bombs!
  • Snow comes in a variety of colors, yellow, orange, green and even purple. Actually, it’s colorless but it can contain dust or algae that give it different colors. Orange snow fell over Siberia in 2007 and pink snow (watermelon snow) covered Krasnodar (Russia) in 2010. Watermelon snow is common in mountains and has a sweet smell and taste.

Pink snow, watermelon snow, may be pretty and sweet smelling, but it frequently contains nasty algae that will make you sick. Source: Wikipedia

  • It was believed that Eskimos had dozens of words for snow. However, some linguists showed that they have the same number of root words as English. Then other linguists showed that they really did seem to have more words. Now there is a hot debate about snowy words.

    The Inuit/Eskimos should get together with snowboarders. Skiers are always using different words, such as “pow pow,” “mashed potatoes,” “champagne snow (powder),” “cauliflower,” “sticky snow,” “dust on crust” to describe the snow.

  • According to Guinness World Records, the largest snowflakes on record were 15 inches (38 cm) in diameter and 8 inches thick. They fell on Fort Keogh, in eastern Montana on 28 January 1887. Nearby ranchers described the flakes as “larger than mild pans” and measured them; “8 inches thick”.

The largest snowflake was 15 inches in diameter! Source: Wikipedia

Google celebrated the 125th anniversary of the event with one of its doodles – an animated cartoon of a really big flake. (If you want to see it, it’s at ).  Imagine shoveling stuff like that off your driveway!

If you are a skier, this early snow may be a good sign of a great winter. If you aren’t, it’s time to start stacking the firewood. Sigh!

Speaking of winter weather, the Almanac's long range forecasts are in! Pick up a copy of the 2014 edition today.


About This Blog

Mike Steinberg is Senior Vice President for Special Initiatives at AccuWeather Inc in State College, Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the National Weather Association and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.