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Stories in the snow: Reading a snowflake's fingerprint

Stories in the Snow- Snowflake Sample 12-20-17

Every snowflake holds a story.

'Stories in the snow' is a project that involves taking pictures of freshly fallen snow crystals with little more than a smartphone that could unlock hidden scientific significance.

To join the citizen science campaign, secure your kit here: dri.edu/stories-in-the-snow

Have you ever wondered what scientific significance a snowflakes shape has? Well a group of scientist at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) are trying to compile a data set to answer some of those questions, Meghan Collins a STEM educator explains how this project started,

"Stories in the snow is a project that involves taking pictures of freshly fallen snow crystals with little more than a smartphone. It started when one of our atmospheric scientists approached us and said 'you know what will really help our work? If we had a collection of images across the truckee river watershed and the tahoe basin of snow crystals right after they fall."

Snowflakes each have their own fingerprint, and they tell us a story about the atmosphere. A snowflake's shape and size are determined by the cloud temperature and humidity. The colder the air surrounding a growing snow crystal, the more intricate the snowflake will be. More elaborate snowflakes also grow when humidity is high. Snowflake shape and size ultimately tells a story about our weather and climate.

In fact pollution and climate change have their own unique impacts, changing flake shape and beauty.

These are some of the research questions scientists are looking to solve by creating a snowflake database. Collins explains the goals behind the project,

"There is two things, the first thing is that we want to ask some big questions about how snow crystals form and what the typical patterns are across our area."

The second big goal, well, DRI is also going to use this snowflake data to assess their cloud seeding science as snow crystals that form from clouds enchanced with silver iodide have their own unique structure.

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