It is winter in the Delaware Valley and, at the time I am writing this post, snow is on the ground and clinging beautifully to the trees.  Most of us have lived through this kind of weather our entire lives, but how many actually know why it snows or if every snowflake is really unique?

To find out why it snows, I went to the experts at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  According to their website, snow is “precipitation in the form of ice crystals. It originates in clouds when temperatures are below the freezing point (0 degrees Celsius, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit), when water vapor in the atmosphere condenses directly into ice without going through the liquid stage. Once an ice crystal has formed, it absorbs and freezes additional water vapor from the surrounding air, growing into a snow crystal or snow pellet, which then falls to Earth.”  Sleet, a type of precipitation very familiar to our region, is a form of snow but hail is not.  To find out even more about snow, visit their Snow Science page.

Whether or not no two snowflakes are alike is both an oft-cited bit of popular culture and a more-complicated-than-you-might-think science question.  Chairman of the CalTech Physics Department, Kenneth G. Libbrecht, explains all the permutations on his SnowCrystals site.  The simple answer is no although, as Dr. Libbrecht explains, it all depends on what you think of as “alike” and what you think of as a “snowflake.”

If it is too cold to go outside, here are some indoor ways to enjoy snow, snowflakes and winter in general: 

·         Make Star Wars or Games of Thrones-themed snowflakes – winter is coming! 
·         Learn how to crochet snowflakes by reading Caitlin Sainio’s “100 Snowflakes to Crochet: Make Your Own Snowdrift – To Give or Keep.”
·         Decorate your windows with spray snow – eHow Crafts gives directions.  Try using doilies for a delicate, snowflake look.
·         Create a wintercenterpiece for your table.  Martha Stewart shows us how to make a variety of perfect for winter.
·         Cook some comfort food.  For a healthy version of your favorites, check out America’s Test Kitchen’s Comfort Food Makeovers: All Your Favorites Made Lighter.  Search “comfort food” in the library’s catalog for a long list of other great titles.
·         Have your own movie marathon for chilly days and nights.  Take a look at the American Film Institute’s “100 Years” lists for ideas and then visit the library to check out the movies!

Of course, one of the best ways to enjoy the snow and winter is watching it outside the windows of your local library branch as you relax in a comfortable chair with a book.  

-Andrea at the Hopewell Branch
Photo courtesy of Jimmie Ocean


  1. did you (all) know that snow is actually colorless? what little sunlight is absorbed by snow is absorbed uniformly over the wavelengths of visible light thus giving snow its white appearance. and the fear of snow is known as chionophobia. the average snowflake falls at the speed of 3.1 miles an hour!


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