snow plow doing snow

How does snow forms?

How cold does it have to be in order for it to snow?

Temperature, but not necessarily the temperature we feel on the ground, has a big role in whether or not winter storms produce snow.

Close up of temperature gauges

When the temperature in the atmosphere is at or below freezing (0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit) and there is a minimal amount of moisture in the air, snow forms.

Water flowing between ice and snow in a river in winter

The snow will reach the ground if the ground temperature is at or below freezing.

Dangerous winter conditions on a road after a freezing night

If the conditions are exactly right, snow can still reach the ground when the ground temperature is above freezing.

Snow flake crystals on blue knitten wool

When snowflakes reach this higher temperature layer, they begin to melt, causing evaporative cooling, which cools the air immediately around the snowflake.

Snow melting on branches at sunrise

Melting is slowed by this cooling. Snow, on the other hand, will not form unless the ground temperature is at least 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit).

High temperature warning, hot weather, heat danger. 100 degree Fahrenheit, red cloudy sky. 3d render

While it is possible for it to be too hot to snow, it is not possible for it to be too cold to snow.

Snowy landscape with footprints forming a path and blue sky

Even at extremely low temperatures, snow can form if there is a source of moisture and a mechanism to elevate or cool the air.

Throwing snowball

True, most heavy snowfalls happen when the air near the ground is rather warm—typically –9 degrees Celsius (15 degrees Fahrenheit) or warmer—because warmer air can store more water vapor.


Because snow creation necessitates moisture, highly cold but dry locations may only get snow on rare occasions.

The Dry Valleys of Antarctica, for example, are the continent’s largest ice-free area.

The Dry Valleys are frigid, but there is very little humidity, and strong winds assist remove any leftover moisture from the air.

Portrait of girl in falling snow

As a result, little snow falls in this bitterly cold location.

road in nature on misty winter day with snow on the ground and f

There is snow on the ground.

Traffics in winter Snow storm blizzard

The character of the snow surface following a snowstorm is determined by the crystals’ original form as well as the weather conditions at the time of the snowfall.

Fir trees swaying in the wind in the snow

When high winds accompany a snowstorm, for example, the snow crystals are split into smaller fragments that can become more tightly packed.

Snow melting

Snow may melt or evaporate after a snowstorm, or it may stick around for a long time.

Snow falling on ground

Individual grains’ texture, size, and form will alter if snow lingers on the ground, even if the temperature remains below freezing, or they may melt and refreeze over time, eventually becoming compacted by succeeding snowfalls.

The snowpack accumulates and develops a complex layered structure made up of a range of snow grains over the winter season, reflecting the weather and climate conditions at the time of deposition as well as changes in the snow cover over time.

What is the maximum size of a snowflake?

Snowflakes are clumps of many individual snow crystals. The majority of snowflakes are smaller than 1.3 centimeters (0.5 inch) in diameter.

Snowflakes on the sand

Larger and irregular flakes, measuring up to 5 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter, can form under particular conditions, which usually include near-freezing temperatures, mild winds, and unstable air conditions.


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