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  • Writer's pictureRachel Stevens

Let it Snow--5 things you didn't know about Snow

With our recently missed, or under-projected snow fall, I got thinking about snow and thought it might be fun to share some interesting snow facts. So here we go! Five, fun facts about snow!

1. Snow provides Nitrogen

I am not kidding; snowfall provides nitrogen to your fields. (Rain does too!) Estimates suggest that you will collect somewhere between 5 pound of nitrogen on the western corn belt and up to 12 pounds of nitrogen from rain and snow each year. Nitrogen gas makes up about 78% of our atmosphere. This nitrogen can be fixed to rain or snow and then deposited in the soil where it is fixed by nitrogen fixing bacteria. Most of the nitrogen in rain or snow is contributed to from human activity like vehicles, power plants, industrial areas, and ag focused areas. So there will be higher amounts deposited near large cities and large agriculture areas. While this quantity of Nitrogen isn’t probably going to be hugely influential on your next corn crop, it is an interesting addition to the ecosystem.

2. The average ratio of snow to rain is 13:1.

This means that 13 inches of snow equals about 1 inch of rain. This of course depends on the moisture content of snow, with wet snows contributing more than dry, powdery snow.

3. Snow is not white.

Snow is actually translucent. Snow appears white because of the many surfaces of a snow crystal all reflect and scatter the light wavelengths and no one color is reflected back, meaning we see the “color” white. This is also why deep snow can also appear slightly blue. The multiple layers of snow allow some red light to be absorbed while reflecting blue back to your eye.

4. Blizzard terminology

To qualify as a blizzard, a storm must have visibility of less than 0.25 miles, and winds of 35 miles an hour for over 3 hours. The US averaged about 9 blizzards per year from 1960-1994. However, since 1995, the US has average 19 blizzards per year. Part of this uptick is due to more reliable reporting systems, but is could also attributed to sunspot cycles (I won’t go into that…) and changes in ocean and atmospheric climate patterns.

5. The Worse Blizzard in Kansas History

One of the most notable blizzards in Kansas took place in January of 1886. From Jan 1 to Jan 3, Kansans experienced 36 hours of blizzard conditions. After a few day reprieve, they were hit again with an even worse storm, followed by wind chills -40 degrees. Over 100,000 head of Kansas cattle died in that storm alone, killing over 75% of the states livestock! Of note, a new industry was born shortly after the blizzards. Since cattle hides were in abundance, skinning the dead animals for the leather industry started.


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