Sunday Science Tidbit; Why is snow white?

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My husband is quite the snow lover. While we didn’t see too much it around here over the past couple of days, the flurries sparked a wonderful question… why is snow white? In this week’s Sunday Science Tidbit, we’ll answer this question.

It is a perplexing question because rain is clear as well as ice. Would you be surprised if I told you that snow is actually clear?

Let’s go down to the microscopic level. Here’s an image of a snowflake under a microscope. It’s clear!!

So how come when snow falls it’s white? The answer lies in the way our brain sees colors. Our eyes interpret different wavelengths as colors. (Remember the science tidbit about why the sky is blue?)

When you put a bunch of snowflakes together you get air pockets within the snow. The light from the sun can bounce around the complex shape of snowflakes many, many times. It will reflect the whole spectrum of colors but they become blended together in our eyes and we see it as white.

~ Meteorologist Candice Boling

{Information courtesy of scienceline.ucsb.edu}


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