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We love science and we also love Christmas, so we thought we would combine the two with some seasonal and interesting fun scientific facts about the one thing everyone wants for Christmas, SNOW.

Snow isn’t actually white.
Snow is actually clear. Snowflakes are made out of ice crystals, so when light passes through, it bends and bounces off each individual crystal.  The entire spectrum of light is reflected back to our eyes, and we see white snow.  So, there’s actually no such thing as a White Christmas, but can you imagine singing “I’m dreaming of a Translucent Christmas.”

Snowflakes always have six sides.

The water molecules that snowflakes are made of can only fit together in a way that results in a six-sided crystal. So, if you see snowflake ornaments or decorations with five or eight sides? Best give them a miss. You’d be breaking a law of nature.

Snowflakes can be identical.
in 1988, a scientist at the National Centre for Atmosphere Research in Colorado, found two identical snowflakes that came from a storm in Wisconsin. Next time you want to tell someone how unique they are, best not use a snowflake as an example.

Snow was almost illegal.
In 1991-92 in Syracuse, New York, the now season was particularly bad.  More that 162 inches of snow fell on the city.  So, in March of 1992, the Syracuse Common Council passed a decree “on behalf of its snow-wary citizens” that said any more snow before Christmas Eve of that year was outlawed.  Sadly, Mother Nature must have missed that memo as it snowed two days later.

Snow can be scary.
For some people at least. There’s even a term for it: Chionophobia.

Some snowflakes you can’t catch in your mouth.
The largest recorded snowflake was 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick. It fell in Fort Keogh, Montana in January of 1887.  Whilst no evidence exists to support the claim, scientists believe this could well be true.

Snow seems to really like Italy.

The town of Capracotta in southern Italy holds the record as the city to receive the most snow in one day.  In March of 2015, more than 100 inches of snow accumulated in just 18 hours. That’s about five inches of snow per hour!

The U.S. gets its share of snow too.
The continental U.S. gets an average of 105 snow-producing storms each year, but the number of blizzards has doubled in the last 20 years. Between 1960 and 1994, there were about nine blizzards per year. Since 1995, however, the average increased to 19 a year. Researchers believe this could be related to low sunspot activity.

Snowstorms are not blizzards.
Besides the fact that “blizzard” just sounds a lot more threatening than “snowstorm,” the real difference between the two is in wind speeds and visibility. According to the National Weather Service, a blizzard must have large amounts of snow, winds blowing over 35 miles per hour, and visibility of less than a quarter mile.

There’s a perk to catching snowflakes on your tongue.
About 75% of Earth’s freshwater is found in snow and ice, including glaciers. They cover 10% of the planet’s entire surface. So every time you catch a snowflake in your mouth you are tasting super-fresh water.

Lots of snow makes super tall snowmen.

The Guinness Book of World Records gave the record for the tallest snowman to one jolly, happy soul in Bethel,
Maine in the US.   The snowwoman, which took over a month to build, was over 122 feet tall.

And finally, there is a science backed reason why you can ‘smell’ snow.
Walk outside on a winters day and take in the air. Your nose detects a familiar smell, the smell of snow as the first snowflakes begin to fall. It’s not your imagination because air does have a different smell just before it snows. One olfactory scientist puts it down to cold weather, humidity and a stimulated nerve in your brain. When temperatures fall to freezing, molecules in the air slow down. This has the effect of making certain smells less pungent. In effect, other odours become less noticeable. Humidity increases in the air just before a snowstorm, how many times has it seemed warmer to you just before it begins to snow. It is the humidity that makes the flakes fall and also makes your nose feel warm and moist. Many people have come to anticipate snow when they feel this sensation.

Other science suggests snow could be linked to the trigeminal nerve, separate from the olfactory system, it is normally associated with interpreting sensations like spices or mint. It is a nerve that is activated when you breathe cold air too. This is why our brains link snow with a distinctive smell.

So, there you have it and all that is left to say is;

 

 ‘Let it Snow.’

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”