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Snow Facts for Nerds

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What you didn't know about snow...

Tupper Briggs

Tupper began his real estate career in 1973 and has earned every accolade from the National Association of Realtors available over the years...

Tupper began his real estate career in 1973 and has earned every accolade from the National Association of Realtors available over the years...

Feb 6 2 minutes read


We all know that when temperature and humidity conditions are conducive, we get snow.  But do you know why all snowflakes are 6-sided?  It has to do with the shape of water molecules, which are made up of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms attached to each other in a V-shaped angle.  The molecules combine, as negatively- and positively-charged parts attract, and they create a three-dimensional pattern with a 6-sided symmetry.  As more water molecules join the snowflake, they reflect the microscopic hexogonal shape.  So, it’s the shape of a water molecule that determines a snowflake’s six-sided shape.

Rain hits the ground after falling at a rate of about 32 feet per second.  Snowflakes, on the other hand, fall at between one and six feet per second, slowed by their large surface area and subjected to wind currents.  If the wind is blowing hard enough—officially 35 mph or more—it’s a blizzard. 

In the US each winter, at least one septillion snow flakes fall from the sky—that’s a one followed by 24 zeros: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. 

By comparison, all the grains of sand on the entire globe are estimated to be around 7.5 hundred quintillion—that’s 7.5 followed by 18 zeros: 7,500,000,000,000,000,000.

Compared to the stars in the sky?  No one knows, but astronomers estimate there are ten times more stars than grains of sand at more than 70 thousand million million million—that’s 7 followed by 22 zeros: 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

And finally, back to water.  There are as many molecules in 10 drops of water as snow flakes fall on the US from the sky each year


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