Can It Ever Be Too Cold to Snow?
by Kenny Hemphill
We all know someone who, when asked if they think it might snow on a particularly chilly day, sucks air in through his or her teeth and declares that "it's probably too cold for snow today."
Too cold for snow? It sounds like nonsense because it is nonsense. According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC), "while it can be too warm to snow, it cannot be too cold to snow. Snow can occur even at incredibly low temperatures as long as there is some source of moisture and some way to lift or cool the air."
There's one sliver of truth in the myth, however, in that very cold temperatures are often associated with dry air, in which you won't get snow. It's the dry air that prevents the snow, however, not the temperature.
"Most heavy snowfalls occur when there is relatively warm air near the ground—typically -9°C (15°F) or warmer," the NSIDC explains on its website, "since warmer air can hold more water vapor."
That, of course, isn't the only common misconception about the weather.
Take, for example, that old adage that lightning doesn't strike twice. In fact, the opposite is true. Lightning can and does strike twice: The Empire State Building, for example, gets hit about 100 times a year. There are some people who have been struck twice. Former Shenandoah National Park ranger (a.k.a. "Spark Ranger") Roy Sullivan, who died in 1983 (from a gunshot wound), was struck by lightning seven times. If the conditions that make lightning more likely to strike in a particular location persist, it's likely to strike there again.
For more common weather misconceptions, check out our video below.
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