Polar Bears International

The Science of Snow

2/11/2012 9:56:36 PM

The Science of Snow

Our team locates five collared grizzly bear dens as the Hagglunds trails through the night with the northern lights dancing overhead. A light snowfall makes the ground glisten, with flakes falling in beautiful designs of hexagonal columns and stellar crystals.

 April Cheuvront in snow

The small world of snowflakes is fascinating: Snow is the crystallized form of water (H20), which forms geometric art masterpieces as water molecules crystallize.

Water molecules are composed of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. They form a bent shape that approximates a 120-degree angle.

Water molecules bond together because of the partially negative charge on the oxygen atom and the partially positive charge on the hydrogen atoms. These water molecules continually bond to one another, forming an intricate mass.

When water molecules crystallize, they form hexagonal-shaped crystals due to their bonding angles. Snowflakes always appear as six-sided crystals.

Craig Perham uses the FLIR to detect dens

Yesterday, minute snowflakes called diamond dust fell intricately and lightly from the sky. While falling, they glisten in the air like fairy dust. The tiny crystals are on average 10 microns in size, the same diameter of a human hair.

Temperature: 1 F

Windspeed: 2 mph

Photos by April Cheuvront.

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