Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Getting Acquainted with a Good Snowflake

From Stellar Dendrites to Capped Columns, snowflake watching is a sport with a whole new vocabulary. But in sunny California, physics professor Kenneth Libbrecht grows flakes, photographs them, and then mails them to Michigan. Well, maybe only if you buy a book or some note cards. Libbrecht is chairman of the Physics Department at the California Institute of Technology and the author of the Field Guide to Snowflakes.
Snowflake Types
In 1951 the International Commission on Snow and Ice produced a widely used classification system for solid precipitation
"Each snowflake is like a fingerprint. The odds of getting two the same is really astronomical and too low to even consider," said Bill Borghoff, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Dendrites make the best snowflakes for skiing, snowman building and sledding. When they pile up the result is a fluffy powder, because the crystals are thin and light. If it's windy the snowflakes fracture, and there will be less accumulation because the fragments pack down more. Flakes are also smaller if the temperature is lower.

Studying snowflakes can help scientists understand crystal formation, and important field of knowledge to the computer industry.

The Beloit Daily News says, "Locations near large lakes or rivers are a good place to start looking for larger and more ornate flakes. For those who travel, snowflake watching is also common in areas such as Northern Ontario, Alaska, Vermont, the Michigan Upper Peninsula, and the Sierra Nevada mountains of California."

from Beloit Daily News, "How to identify snowflakes", by Hilary Gavan, Dec 31, 2007
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