MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: Can snowguns make perfect hexagonal snow crystals? If not what shape?

Date: Tue Feb 19 09:35:30 2002
Posted By: Lon Brouse, Faculty, Chemistry, Challenge Charter School
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 1010686822.Es

Dear Maia,

Ice freezes in hexagonal crystals because of the way the water molecules 
stack together.  As in any crystal, the slower the ice crystals grow, the 
more perfect they can be and the more delicate their appearance.  In 
natural clouds, snow flakes can be built up single molecules at a time.  
These flakes have been photographed in detail thousands of times and the 
photos can be found in books and on the internet.

Snow machines make snow by blowing high-pressure water thorugh a nozzle 
which allows it to freeze in an immitation of natural snow.  This process 
produces ice crystals much faster than they are produced in clouds and 
therefore does not allow the crystals as much time to "grow".  The ice 
crystals are still hexagonal because that is how water freezes, but the 
delicate lace appearance is not apparent.  The "snow" crystals are 
stubbier without the fancy details you recognize as a typical snow flake.  
For that reason, man-made snow does not "ski" the same way natural snow 
does.  The fine, deep, dry snow known as "champagne powder" is only made 
by natural processes in clouds.

While man-made snow is not quite as good as the natural kind, it is still 
better than not being able to ski at all.

Current Queue | Current Queue for Earth Sciences | Earth Sciences archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Earth Sciences.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2002. All rights reserved.