Lelt's Talk About: Snow and ice

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It's that time of year when the residents of the Pittsburgh region get out their shovels and salt for their sidewalks and driveways. It's when everyone bundles up in layers of clothing, and when kids wish every night before bed for school to be canceled or delayed the next morning.

In a harmony of nature, when the meteorological conditions align, we see snow. Everyone knows that when the temperature reaches 32 degrees water begins to freeze into ice. That is really just the beginning. When extremely cold water droplets in the atmosphere freeze onto pollen or dust particles in the sky it creates an ice crystal. When the ice crystal falls to the ground, water vapor freezes onto the first crystal, building new crystals. If you look at a snowflake under a microscope, you will notice intricate patterns and shapes. As the crystal falls, the atmospheric temperature conditions will determine the shape of the crystal.

There are many snow and ice activities you can do in your home. It's important in science to master the skill of observation, so the next time it snows watch as the flakes come down. Take note of the outside temperature and how you think it will affect the snow that is falling. What does each flake look like and how many points on each flake can you count? Sketch the design of a snowflake that falls on your window and then try to re-create it using paper. It's easy to make your own snowflakes that never melt at home. All you need for this activity are a pair of scissors and paper. The best instructions are found at www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-6-Pointed-Paper-Snowflakes.

It's important to note that there are no eight-sided or four-sided snowflakes in nature, so be sure to stick to the six-sided crystal designs.


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