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What is snow?

January 30, 2002

What is snow?



Snow is frozen rain, but if one inch of rain falls, would that equal one inch of snowfall?

John Newkirk, program manager at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va., says no.

The Sterling office, part of the NWS eastern region, provides weather information for Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

"Snowflakes are bigger," he says.

The standard conversion is that every 1/10 of an inch of rain would translate into one inch of snow when it gets cold enough.

So, one inch of rain would equal 10 inches of snow. Ten inches of rain would equal 100 inches of snow, or what the Buffalo, N.Y., area received in one week between Christmas and New Years.

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"Rainfall doesn't accumulate when it falls, but snow is frozen," Newkirk says. "It accumulates on top of each other, whereas rain just spreads out."

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