“Silently, like thoughts come and go, the snowflakes fall, each one a gem” said William Hamilton Gibson. Snowfall is indeed a beautiful view of the nature which is always mesmerising and adorable. Seeing the earth covered with white snow is amazing. Everyone loves to watch the snowfall and to play with the snow. But ever wondered how these snowflakes are formed?
The small white balls of snow which fall on earth are not just a mass of snow. The snow which falls is a uniform and structured form of frozen water droplets. The process of formation of snowflakes was under discussion for a very long time until in 1951 Wilson Bentley a scientist from International Association of Cyrospheric Sciences (IACS) devised an instrument which could take the microscopic pictures of the snow.
The process of snow formation begins up above the sky. The Earth’s atmosphere consists of a lot of dust particles. The tiny particles around us are spread throughout the atmosphere, even at higher levels of the atmosphere. At a low temperature, the process of solidification starts and the water vapour starts settling down around the dust particles. Tiny crystals of ice form a coating around the dust particle. This is the initial stage of the formation of snowflakes.
The snowflake formation starts as a bead of ice with a small speck of dust in the middle. The temperature of the snow is lesser than the temperature of the atmosphere around it. The water droplets continue freezing around the small snow crystal. These droplets start settling at the edges leading to the formation of cavities at certain places.
The snow bead does not remain a bead for a very long time. The flakes start forming around the bead. It settles in the form of a hexagon and gives six arms to the bead of snow. Lately, the atmosphere can’t hold the snowflake and it gets whipped off and falls on the earth in the form of snow balls.
The formation of snowflakes is affected by a lot of factors. The amount of water, humidity, temperature, size of pollen grains, dirt, etc. also affects the size of snowflake formation. When the snow starts falling towards the Earth its size increases. The reason behind this increase in the size of snowflake is the humidity of the atmosphere. Due to increase in humidity, more water vapour condenses around the falling snowflake which increases its size.
Though snow falls in the form of a cluster, the shape of each snowflake is regular and symmetric No two snowflakes are of same pattern which was proved by various scientists. On close observation of each snowflake, it was found that each snowflake was different. This variance was due to the certain factors which affects the snowflake formation.
The process of snowflake formation is a long process and involves a series of steps. After crossing so many levels, the snow reaches the earth which is nothing but tiny particles covered with frozen water and we get to see the beautiful white snow around us!