My girlfriend sent me this Gchat message today: “So, people Facebook are talking about how the government put fake snow in Atlanta because it won't melt. What is going on?”
Wait. What? This sounds crazy. So I looked around a little bit and, sure enough, lots of people with Internet handles like “WakeUpAmerica” are posting stories and photos and videos of snow that won’t melt, or turns black when held to a flame. Some are saying the government and/or terrorists must have dumped fake snow on the South as a chemical attack.
This isn’t a conspiracy—just snow behaving in a way that’s completely normal, but out of line with people’s assumptions. The folks who are freaking out here seem to expect a snowball to start dripping when a lighter is held up to it, the way an ice cube does. Snow doesn’t melt like that, though, because of the way it’s structured. Since snow is made up of lots of tiny snowflakes, it’s pretty loose and fluffy, and when you hold up a lighter to a handful of snow and start melting it, the remaining snow is going to absorb the water that’s created as some flakes melt. It goes from dry snow, to wet snow, to slush. It’s melting, but just not the way we think melting should look. Eventually, the water will run out of places to go, and your snowball will drip and turn into a pool of water.
As for the black color, that’s just soot, which results from incomplete combustion. It happens on real snow, and it happens on ice cubes, too. Go grab one from the freezer and try it yourself.
You can also do what these two Georgia boys did, and try putting the “snow that won’t melt” into the microwave, where it goes through the melting process pretty quickly.