Let it Snow

Let it Snow

Snowflake Search

1/12/2024 | Angela Whitlock, CSRA

Snow is finally here, and just in time for the annual Champaign County Forest Preserves Snowflake Search. 
The search will be happening soon, with plans to install snowflakes in the next week, and will happen from mid-January through February. 
Uncover hidden snowflakes in five out of our seven beautiful forest preserves. Also keep an eye out for small tree cookies that provide exciting tidbits, fun facts, and interpretive information about the Champaign County Forest Preserves. 

With the snow finally upon us, check out these interesting facts about snowflakes: 

1. Snowflakes are not just made up of snow. 
In fact, snowflakes are made up of ice crystals, and form in the sky around bits of dirt. Snowflakes can fall to the ground as single ice crystals, or they can be made up of more than 200 crystals, depending on where they go in the atmosphere. 

2. Not every snowflake is unique
There is some debate about this, because for the most part, you would be hard pressed to find two identical snowflakes out in nature. However, in 1988, a scientist at the National Center for Atmosphere Research in Boulder, CO, used a microscope to find two identical examples of snowflakes in a storm in Wisconsin. The snowflake is now in the Guinness World Records! Scientists have also been able to successfully make twin snowflakes in controlled conditions.

However, for the most part, almost all snowflakes are unique because their shape is determined by the path it takes from the sky to the ground. While most snowflakes have six points and are hexagonal in shape, you can also find a variety of other snowflake shapes. Their design is also determined by temperature and humidity. When it is really cold, the designs are more simple. Snowflakes are most complex when the temperature hovers around freezing point. 

3. There are so many different types of snowflakes that they have their own classification system. 
Generally speaking, there are five well-known types of snowflakes: plates, columns, prisms, dendrites, and needles. But not all scientists agree on these types. While one classification system (Nakaya) lists 41 different types, another (Magono and Lee) lists 80 different types. The International Classification System lists 7 different principal types of snowflakes. Click here to learn about these seven principal types. 

4. Snowflakes are caused by pollen.
Water droplets need something to freeze around to create a snowflake. Typically, this is dust particles in the clouds. However, they can also form around pollen in the air, which is surprisingly still present during wintertime. 

5. Snow affects sound. 
Have you ever thought that it was quieter when it snows? Well, you'd be correct in that assumption, because snow actually absorbs sound. According to Michigan State University, snow is pretty porous and acts as a natural sound buffer! Check out more about this natural sound-proofer here

6. Mars has snowflakes. 
While Mars does not have the same snowflakes you may see on Earth, during the winter, it actually snows on Mars! The snow on Mars is made up of carbon dioxide and can be really small. Though smaller in size, Mars can still get a nice accumulation of snow during this time of year. Learn more about snow on Mars here


Be sure to remember these fun facts if you find yourself walking around during a snow-filled day at one of the forest preserves, and you may not look at snowflakes the same way again! 


*information taken from CCFPD's Facebook page, Center for Science Education website, Guinness World Records (online), Caltech, ResearchGate, Atmospheric Research (journal), UCAR Center for Science Education, Michigan State University, Space.com, and LovetoKnow.com.