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What is a Snow Ratio?

January 30, 2013; 8:40 PM

Some snow is great for snowball fights while other snow won't hold its shape. Some snow is perfect for skiing while other snow just slows you down. Scientists use snow ratios to describe the different types of snow.

What are snow ratios? The snow to liquid ratio is a way of describing what makes light, fluffy snow different from heavy, wet snow. The temperature can have a huge impact on the amount of snow as well as how much it weighs. The snow ratio compares the amount of liquid precipitation with the number of inches of snow. In colder weather, snow has more air space so there are more inches of snow. Wet snow that falls at the freezing mark is usually sloppy and heavy.

Storm tracks often provide information that helps forecast the snow to water ratio. Tracks near oceans have more liquid water in clouds which usually produces lower snow-liquid ratios.

For weather enthusiasts, here's a table from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that gives a statistical relationship between amounts of snow that fall and the corresponding water equivalent at specified temperature ranges. The water equivalent and snowfall amounts are listed in inches. Temperature ranges are listed in degrees Fahrenheit. These values are only approximate.

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