Ahhhh, snow.  If you live in an area that gets snow this time of year, you either love it, as I do, or you hate it.  I’ve never met anyone who felt indifferent about snow.  

However, what do you really know about snow? You may recognize that each snowflake represents nature’s artistry albeit in miniature.  If you’ve ever caught falling snow on your mitten and studied it, you may be surprised at the variety of shapes you see and wonder what determines the variations. 

Here are some snowflake facts that you might find interesting:

Snowflakes are made up of snow crystals and there are at least 35 different types. 

Snowflakes are transparent and colorless. They are not white as typically portrayed.

It’s not true that no two snowflakes are alike. There have been documented accounts of identical flakes.  

The largest flakes are usually around .3-.4 inches from tip to tip.  Although there is a claim dating from 1887 of a 15 inch (!) flake seen in Montana.  

Not all snowflakes are symmetrical. 

Not all snowflakes have 6 branches.  Some have twelve and result from pairing.  These are rather rare.  


If you are interested in learning more, here are some additional resources to check out:


Snowflake Bentley

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin    (Target Age:  4-8 years )

Published by Houghton Mifflin in September, 1998

Wilson Bentley became fascinated by snowflakes as a young boy.  His curiosity led him to try to capture their image with the photographic equipment available at that time.   In doing so, he not only captured incredible photos of a difficult subject, he also contributed to the understanding of the science and may have been one of the originators of macrophotography.   

Although this book was written for children, adults will enjoy it too.   The story is short but substantive.  The illustrations are charming.  The only hiccup with this book is that the layout of additional facts in the sidebars can be a bit disjointed from the story’s flow. 

This is the 1999 Caldecott Medal winner.


The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder

by Mark Cassino, Jon Nelson  (Target Age: 6-10 years )

Published by Chronicle Books in October, 2009

If your audience is interested in learning a bit more about the science behind how those snowflakes are formed, this book may be just the ticket.   Focusing on three of the crystal types, the authors explain why and how flakes form.  (Hint:  The molecular shape of water (H2O) is key.)  You’ll also learn about the role temperature and humidity play in influencing the ultimate design of the flake.  Actual snowflake photos are used to illustrate the concepts.  

The authors included snowflake catching instructions which is a real bonus for the budding naturalist or scientist. 


Field Guide to Snowflakes

by Ken Libbrecht    

Published by Voyageur Press in October, 2006

Ready to learn more?  This is the definitive guide to snowflakes.   Here you will learn more insights into the importance of temperature and humidity and their impact on supersaturation and crystal morphology.  You’ll learn about the surfaces or facets of the crystals.  You will be introduced to the “capped column” and the “fernlike stellar dendrite,” among many others. 

The final section provides tips for photography, including setting up lighting and how to gently handle the flakes for maximum use before they sublimate.

This book is definitely worth owning if you want to further enjoy the next big snowstorm.  

Perhaps this deeper exploration will even motivate a few reluctant folks to look forward to it.  


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