Ask Ellen: How much water is in a snowflake?

Ask Ellen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — School is out of session due to the coronavirus restrictions, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop learning! So, we have opened up “Ask Ellen” on additional nights, so we can answer some weather questions from our youngest viewers!

Tonight’s question comes from Keith Piccard’s daughter who asked, “How much liquid water is in one flake of snow?”

This is a great question and a tricky one! Especially since each flake of snow is so different. Water content can vary greatly depending on the type of snowflake. Very dry snow can contain very, very little water, whereas wet snow can comparatively hold a lot. But if we were to average that out and think of a “typical” snowflake, we have to start with the molecular level.

Snowflakes are made of minuscule droplets of water. Millions and millions of them in fact. A standard snowflake is said to be comprised of 100,000,000,000,000,000 water droplets! With this many water droplets there are practically an infinite number of ways these crystals can be rearranged! No wonder why we say that no two snowflakes are alike!

When all is said in done, this amounts to about 0.05 milliliters of water, or five hundredths of a milliliter.

Again, this number can change depending on how wet or heavy the snowflake is. To show you the full range, just know one inch of water can make as little as 2″ of sleety snow to as much as 50″ of dry powdery snow! The moisture content of a flake is all dependent on the weather inside the cloud when the snow forms.

Thanks for your questions Piccards! Stay healthy and keep learning.

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