Winter Forecast: What’s the difference between wet and dry snow?

Winter Forecast

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Have you ever wondered why some snow is the best to make snowballs with, while other times we get snow and its sort of powdery? The difference here is because sometimes we classify snow as wet or dry snow.

What really does this entail? Essentially, this is the amount of liquid content in the snow that makes it a wet snow or dry snow. Wet snows tend to be denser, that’s when you can create really great snowballs and snowmen. Unfortunately, it is also really difficult to shovel.

Dry snows are more powdery and dusty. That snow really tends to blow in the wind very easily. One of the things that impacts this is the temperature reading aloft when it snows. Temperature plays a key factor in whether you’re going to see a wet snow or a dry snow. If that temperature aloft is just a little bit greater than 32 degree, the snow essentially has to melt a little bit and that causes this to be more of a wet snow.

We get a greater amount of liquid in that snow. When it’s much colder than 32 degrees, we typically see that drier snow with a lower water content.

Our typical snow ratio that we often use forecasting is a 10:1 ratio. Essentially, that means that if it snows 10 inches, if we were to melt all the water in that snow, you would get about 1 inch of liquid.

Now compare this to a very dry snow. This happens when we have a 20:1 snow ratio. If it snows 10 inches, but because the ratio is 20:1, we only squeeze out about a half an inch of liquid water. In an extremely wet snow, an example of that snow ratio, would be about 8:1.

We forecast for different types of snows here in East Tennessee, but those dry snows are when it’s really powdery. Wet snow is when it is heavier and a little more difficult to shovel.

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