Surprising Facts You Never Knew About Snow

Snow isn’t actually white

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That’s right. Snow is actually clear. Snowflakes are made out of ice crystals, so when light passes through, it bends and bounces off each individual crystal. The entire spectrum of light is reflected back to our eyes, and we see white snow. So there’s actually no such thing as a White Christmas, but that sounds a lot catchier than Translucent Christmas. (Check out these stunning photos of national parks covered in snow.)

Snowflakes always have six sides

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It’s science. The water molecules that snowflakes are made of can only fit together in a way that results in a six-sided ice crystal. So those snowflake decorations and ornaments you see with five or eight sides? Don’t buy them. You’d be breaking a law of nature.

Some snowflakes are the same

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Oh, the things you can discover with microscopes. In 1988, Nancy Knight, a scientist at the National Center for Atmosphere Research in Colorado, found two identical snowflakes that came from a storm out of Wisconsin. Next time you want to tell someone how unique he or she is, don’t use a snowflake as an example.

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Snow was almost illegal

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The 1991-1992 snow season was particularly bad for Syracuse, New York. More than 162 inches of snow fell on the city. So in March of 1992, the Syracuse Common Council passed a decree “on behalf of its snow-weary citizens” that said any more snow before Christmas Eve of that year was outlawed. (These are more of the strangest laws in every state.) But Mother Nature must have missed the memo: It snowed two days later, and the following winter brought even more snow.

Some snowflakes you can’t catch in your mouth

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The largest recorded snowflake was 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick. It fell in Fort Keogh, Montanta in January of 1887. While there’s no corroborating evidence that confirms this is true, scientists don’t doubt it could be.

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Snow seems to really like Italy…

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The town of Capracotta in southern Italy holds the record for the city to get the most snow in one day. In March of 2015, more than 100 inches of snow accumulated in just 18 hours. That’s about five inches of snow per hour!

But the U.S. gets its share of snow too

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The continental U.S. gets an average of 105 snow-producing storms each year, but the number of blizzards has doubled in the last 20 years. Between 1960 and 1994, there were about nine blizzards per year. Since 1995, however, the average increased to 19 a year. Researchers believe this could be related to low sunspot activity. Check out these vintage photos of snowstorms from the early 1900s.

Snowstorms are not blizzards

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Besides the fact that “blizzard” just sounds a lot more threatening than “snowstorm,” the real difference between the two is in wind speeds and visibility. According to the National Weather Service, a blizzard must have large amounts of snow, winds blowing over 35 miles per hour, and visibility of less than a quarter mile. Here are more nature words everyone gets wrong.

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There’s a perk to catching snowflakes on your tongue

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About 75 percent of Earth’s freshwater is found in snow and ice, including glaciers. They cover 10 percent of the planet’s entire surface.

Lots of snow = super tall snowmen

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The Guinness Book of World Records gave the record for Tallest Snowman to one jolly, happy soul in Bethel, Maine. The snowwoman, which took over a month to build, was over 122 feet tall. (Read up on the history of the snowman.)

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