General Question

daniel89x's avatar

How does snow melt when its below freezing?

Asked by daniel89x (280points) February 14th, 2008 from iPhone

Alot of the times when it snows here alot of the snow melts during the day when its in the 20’s. I understand its because of the sun, but why?

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3 Answers

Les's avatar

Actually, the snow isn’t melting, it is sublimating. Sublimation is the process of a solid (snow) going directly to the gas phase (water vapor). This is as opposed to solid (snow), to liquid (water) to gas (water vapor). What is needed for this to occur is energy (i.e. photons of sunlight), and/or the following: low relative humidities and winds. The thermodynamics of all of this are kind of complicated, but basically, nothing will happen to the snow without energy. So favorable conditions for sublimation would be having the sun close to over head (i.e. not low on the horizon), dry air, and a strong-ish wind. One other thing: I’m not sure if you mean that you are seeing water (i.e. melting) or if you are just observing snow piles/amounts decreasing over time. If you are seeing water, I don’t really know what is going on except for maybe if your city uses salt on the roads, this could be causing the melting. Salt lowers the freezing point of water, which aids in the melting of the snow, and keeps it from refreezing (but only down to certain temperatures. After all, there is a limit to all of our tinkering with nature.) Does this answer your question?

daniel89x's avatar

That defiantly answers my question. Thank you!

Zyx's avatar

Haha, defiantly, I’m bored.

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