The Physics Factbook™
Edited by Glenn Elert -- Written by his students
An educational, Fair Use website
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|Bibliographic Entry||Result |
|Longwell, Flint & Sanders. Physical Geology. New York: Wiley, 1969: 70.||"less than a millimeter in diameter"||0.1 cm|
|Blackadar, Alfred. Microsoft Encarta. Microsoft and Funk & Wagnall, 1994.||"up to 7 to 10 cm"||7–10 cm|
|Kirk, Ruth. Snow. New York: William Morrow, 1978: 20.||"as much as an inch, or even two or three inches"||3–8 cm|
|Nakaya, U. Encyclopedia Americana. New York: Encyclopedia Americana, 1966: 149.||"more than one inch in diameter are not rare"||3 cm|
|Ludlum, Dr. David M., Holle Ronald L. and Keen, Dr. Richard A. National Audubon Society Pocket Guide: Clouds and Storms. New York: Knopf, 1995: 150.||"as large as 2"to 3"(5-7.6 cm)"||5–8 cm|
Watching snowflakes slip out of the sky is like seeing a rare wonder that happenson only the most special of occasions. Observing each one fall slowly on to thepalm of your hand or the tip of your nose, they seem perfectly alike. But on closerexamination you would find that, except in the rarest occasion, every one is different,making it impossible for there to be one measurement for the diameter of a snowflake.
Contrary to the popular belief, snowflakes are not just frozen water. Theyare actually a cluster of snow crystals. Snow crystals are crystals of ice formedfrom water vapor condensing on small particles in the atmosphere at below freezingtemperatures. When snow crystals fall to the earth they often stick together forminga snowflake. However, this means that two snow crystals could stick together orthree thousand snow crystals could stick together and both would still be calleda snowflake. Whether a snowflake is two snow crystals or three thousand dependson the conditions that the snow crystals fall through. The speed at which thecrystals fall, the temperature, the humidity, the electrical conditions of theair -- all these things influence the final size of a snowflake. These conditionsalso influence their shape. A snowflake may form into a classical, six-sided shapeunder the right conditions but it also may become a column, a plate or a needle.Considering the possibilities of shapes and sizes that a snowflake can take, itis true to say that it is impossible for any two snowflakes to be exactly thesame.
Because there is no uniform snowflake there can be no set diameter of a snowflake.Each book and encyclopedia consulted about the diameter of a snowflake gave adifferent diameter of what the number should be. Some books said that a snowflakecan be as small as.001 M. Some stated that it is common for a snowflake tobe.0254 M. Some said that a snowflake can be as big as.0762 M. Whateverthe case, a snowflake as small as a grain of sand or as big as the palm of myhand is a white figure of perfection, a little miracle falling from the sky.
Brigid Irene Naughton -- 1996
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