The Snow Moon and the science of snowflakes

Last night, Roger and I were walking the dogs around 5 p.m., when the most beautiful full moon rose over the treetops.  I learned that the Native Americans call this the Snow Moon because the month of February traditionally has the most snow in North America.  The alternate names are the Hunger Moon (sad) and the Opening Buds Moon (looking forward to Spring).

And then, as if commanded by the moon, it did  snow today!  In the Frederick area, it was a wet snow that didn’t freeze on the roads, but it made a thick coat on the branches, frosting everything in white.  Since Jeremy and I have been talking snow (because snow and Christmas are the perfect combination), I can also report that I have gone beyond arts and crafts snow to study their scientific formations.  I am including an interesting chart that explains in graph form what kind of snowflakes form at what temperature combined with moisture in the air.  While this may be obvious to most, maybe I missed that unit in 5th grade because, when I watched the large flakes falling today, noting that they were NOT a big as Saturday’s flakes, I understood a little better the science behind their shapes.

Kenneth Librecht, at Caltech, has authored a terrific site, A Snow Crystal Primer,  that explains, in layman’s terms, how snow crystals form and other details about snow.  On his site, there are links to beautify photography books which would make great coffee table books for the winter/Christmas season.

(Note:  Although the full moon in December 2011 was early in the month, next year, it will be on December 28, close to Christmas Day.  The December full moon is called the Cold Moon—not nearly as exciting in the Christmas season.)

One comment on “The Snow Moon and the science of snowflakes

  1. […] Although he isn’t strictly Christmas, I bet Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931), the first man to ever photograph a snowflake, would have loved the wet snowfall yesterday. The snowflakes were huge, ideal conditions for studying the hexagonal ice crystals. […]

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