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Ask Todd: Too cold for snow?

11:52 PM, Dec 11, 2012   |    comments
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This question comes from our WBIR Facebook page. Bryan Russell asks: "I've heard that it can get too cold to snow. Is that true?"

The short answer is no, but you won't always see deep, fluffy snow in extreme cold temperatures.

Most heavy snowfalls happen with relatively warm air temperatures near the ground-- usually at 15 degrees or above.

When temperatures drop into the single digits, or below zero, heavy snow is unlikely. That's not because it's too cold, but because it's too dry. When temperatures are that low, the air's capacity for water vapor becomes very small.

One example of a really cold place that doesn't get much snow is Barrow, Alaska. The town averages only two inches of snowfall in January, when the average high temperature is only two degrees and that average low is negative 20.

It's a similar situation in that South Pole. Although there's lots of snow and ice around, the pole is really a desert environment because it averages less than one inch of precipitation yearly. That's about the same as the Sahara Desert.

So, to sum things up, it's never too cold to snow, but it can be too dry, even in places you think would have a lot of snow.

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