11 Mind-Blowing Facts About Snow You Never Knew Until Now

No two snowflakes are alike? Well, maybe not.

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Snowy forest landscape
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1. Snow Isn’t Actually White

That’s right. Snow is actually clear. Snowflakes are made out of ice crystals, so when light passes through, it bends and bounces off each individual crystal. The entire spectrum of light is reflected back to our eyes, and we see white snow. So there’s actually no such thing as a White Christmas, but that sounds a lot catchier than Translucent Christmas.

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Snowflake close-up
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2. Snowflakes Always Have Six Sides

It’s science. The water molecules that snowflakes are made of can only fit together in a way that results in a six-sided ice crystal. So those snowflake decorations and ornaments you see with five or eight sides? Don’t buy them. You’d be breaking a law of nature.

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Snowflake close-up
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3. Some Snowflakes Are the Same

Oh, the things you can discover with microscopes. In 1988, Nancy Knight, a scientist at the National Center for Atmosphere Research in Colorado, found two identical snowflakes that came from a storm out of Wisconsin. Next time you want to tell someone how unique he or she is, don’t use a snowflake as an example.

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Buildings in Syracuse, New York
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4. Snow Was Almost Illegal

The 1991-1992 snow season was particularly bad for Syracuse, New York. More than 162 inches of snow fell on the city. So in March of 1992, the Syracuse Common Council passed a decree “on behalf of its snow-weary citizens” that said any more snow before Christmas Eve of that year was outlawed. But Mother Nature must have missed the memo: It snowed two days later, and the following winter brought even more snow.

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Mother bundling up her young daughter for winter
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5. Snow Can Be Scary

To some people, at least. There’s even a term for it: Chionophobia.

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Young girl catching snowflakes in her mouth
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6. Some Snowflakes You Can’t Catch in Your Mouth

The largest recorded snowflake was 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick. It fell in Fort Keogh, Montana in January of 1887. While there’s no corroborating evidence that confirms this is true, scientists don’t doubt it could be.

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Snow in ancient Italian ruins
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7. Snow Seems to Really Like Italy

The town of Capracotta in southern Italy holds the record for the city to get the most snow in one day. In March of 2015, more than 100 inches of snow accumulated in just 18 hours. That’s about five inches of snow per hour!

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Bobsled and Northern Lights
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8. But Canada Gets Its Share of Snow Too

The continental U.S. gets an average of 105 snow-producing storms each year, but the number of blizzards has doubled in the last 20 years. Between 1960 and 1994, there were about nine blizzards per year. Since 1995, however, the average increased to 19 a year. Researchers believe this could be related to low sunspot activity.

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Blizzard on highway
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9. Snowstorms Are Not Blizzards

Besides the fact that “blizzard” just sounds a lot more threatening than “snowstorm,” the real difference between the two is in wind speeds and visibility. According to the National Weather Service, a blizzard must have large amounts of snow, winds blowing over 40 kilometres per hour, and visibility of less than a quarter kilometre.

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Young boy enjoying winter play
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10. There’s a Perk to Catching Snowflakes on Your Tongue

About 75 per cent of Earth’s freshwater is found in snow and ice, including glaciers. They cover 10 per cent of the planet’s entire surface.

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Young girl building snowman
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11. Lots of Snow = Super Tall Snowmen

The Guinness Book of World Records gave the record for Tallest Snowman to one jolly, happy soul in Bethel, Maine. The snow-woman, which took over a month to build, was over 122 feet tall.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest