What Causes Snow? Fascinating Weather Facts For Curious Kids!

Aashita Dhingra
Oct 17, 2023 By Aashita Dhingra
Originally Published on Nov 23, 2021
Winter snow covered mountain peaks in Caucasus.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 4.4 Min

Do you know what causes snow or how it forms?

There are some conditions required for snow to happen, including freezing temperatures, atmospheric lift, climate change, the lake effect, and the jet stream. Snow is caused every winter because of the icy precipitation that is formed in the air. It is a fluffy white powder.

Icy precipitation is accumulated in layers and then evaporates in the form of water vapor. It then falls from the sky. The temperature must be below 32 F ( 0 C) for water to freeze in the clouds or near the ground, and in this condition, snow forms. Temperatures must be at that point where they allow for an accumulation of snowflakes to fall without melting on the surface of the Earth. If the snowflakes are sticky then they might have some liquid in them. The water droplets that fall from the cooling air condense in the shape of tiny particles in the atmosphere. Snow is cool and falls in a solid form. This form can be made up of minute ice crystals below a temperature of 32 F ( 0 C).

For more similar content, you can also read about what causes day and night on Earth and what astronomers do.

What temperature causes snow?

Snowfall occurs at a temperature of 32 F ( 0 C), but it also sometimes occurs below 32 F ( 0 C). Sometimes it also happens when the weather is warmer, even though it is well-known that water will only freeze at temperatures below 32 F ( 0 C). So, how can flakes fall when ground level is at this temperature?

Sometimes the atmosphere is cooler where water droplets freeze and become snow compared to ground level. Snow is formed in the atmosphere where there is enough moisture and temperatures are below freezing. Snowfall even occurs in conditions where air flows over a large ice-free lake, and you may see tiny water droplets. This happens when the weather cools to a lower temperature than normal. Due to heat, snow melts and regions that are warmer have less chance of having snowfall. Where there is warm air in the atmosphere, it starts to rain. Regions that are warm experience heavy rain in the form of water vapor.

What conditions are required for snow?

Certain conditions are necessary for snow formation, primarily a freezing temperature in the atmosphere (not necessarily on ground level). Snow formation takes place below 32 F ( 0 C) when there is enough moisture present in the air.

Mountain regions are more likely to experience snowfall and snowflake accumulations. Precipitation caused by a mountain is called orographic precipitation. Lift is defined as the unique element through which moist air raises for cloud formation. Snowflakes will melt after reaching a high enough temperature, but it is a fact that snow does not fall based on ground temperature.

Snowfall also occurs when there is a low temperature in one place and warm air present in its surrounding area. The snow will likely melt. As there is moisture in snow, it may fall down to Earth in the form of rain. This water vapor may still feel cold. Water starts freezing in the form of snow, mainly during the winter season. Sometimes you may notice a snowflake, which is a bunch of ice crystals. The size of a snowflake is typically around 0.51-1 in (1.3-2.54 cm).

Winter landscape at Mountain Cook National Park.

Is snow frozen rain?

Freezing rain is formed when snowfall targets a layer of air that is warm. This causes rain to melt and fall to Earth in the form of rain. When water droplets freeze and become ice, snow crystals are formed.

When rain falls, it passes through a layer that is not so cold and not so hot. However, to form, the temperature must be below freezing at 32 F (0 C). The process of falling rain is that, when clouds are not able to hold any more rain within them, gravity will push it down to Earth.

Why is freezing rain better than snow?

Freezing rain is better than snow because there is a thick layer of cold air that forms in the atmosphere. When a cloud releases this partially melted snow, it has fewer particles of snow. As a result, you will not feel that cold when it begins to fall to ground level.

Ice starts to form snow when the atmosphere is colder compared to ground level. Freezing rain falls from the clouds and starts to form snow. When there is a mid-layer that is quite warm, it melts completely and takes the form of rain. However if, before reaching ground level, it passes through a layer that is cold, rain becomes cool and turns into sleet. Freezing rain may be unpleasant but no more than snowflakes. This is why most people are able to handle rain better than snow.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for'What causes snow? Fascinating weather facts for curious kids!' then why not take a look at 'Is a caterpillar an insect? Of course yes, cool moth facts for kids' or 'Do all mammals have hair? know interesting animal body facts for kids'?

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Written by Aashita Dhingra

Bachelors in Business Administration

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Aashita DhingraBachelors in Business Administration

Based in Lucknow, India, Aashita is a skilled content creator with experience crafting study guides for high school-aged kids. Her education includes a degree in Business Administration from St. Mary's Convent Inter College, which she leverages to bring a unique perspective to her work. Aashita's passion for writing and education is evident in her ability to craft engaging content.

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