Too cold to snow? Not exactly

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – I overheard people talking at the grocery store, “Yep, it’s cold, but at least it’s too cold to snow.” 

It’s a common misconception. Actually, it’s too dry to snow.

When we have a cold weather outbreak, it’s cold and dry air that moves out of its place of origin.

We think of the Arctic circle as a cold and snowy place. Actually, the poles are more similar to frozen deserts. While it does snow, it’s mainly cold and very dry.

When this air mass moves South, it warms a bit, but it’s still very dry. Cold air equals dry air.

Just like with rain, you need moisture in the air for snow to develop. We call this invisible moisture in the air, water vapor. Dry air has a low amount of water vapor, the ingredient needed for ice crystals to start to form snowflakes.

Even in dry air, ice crystals will form, but snowflakes don’t form as easily the colder you get. When you breathe in the cold and see your breath, you are adding moisture to the air, and you see a cloud form and quickly evaporate into the dry air.

The curveball for us is the Great Lakes. With the Great Lakes, you have an adequate moisture source and you can see big snowfalls. Just ask the people in Erie, Pennsylvania!