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Snow

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Guest Rellseli66

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So this week I was walking home one night from the school, it was late at night and it was snowing out, and with Max I was walking and watching the snow fall, and it made me think about the heavier objects falling faster lab. I began to question why the snow/hail will fall down slower then rain does.

When it is pouring outside you can hardly see the drops of rain because they are falling down so fast, it all looks like a blur, but even in a blizzard you can see individual snowflakes as they fall from the sky, as well as hail, and when there is only a light snow you can see them perfectly.

Why is it that snow falls so much slower then the rain? Does it have to deal with the weight and density of the rain being more than that of snow? Or is there some other factor which causes rain to pour, but snow only falls from the sky?

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I would pin the tail on air resistance... after all, it is the bane of all existence!

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I would say right away that the density of water has everything to do with it. My common sense is telling me that a denser object would accelerate faster, but of course I'll go look this up. It may also have to do with the fact that water is transparent and snowflakes are opaque. (to relate this fact to physics, we can say that snow reflects photons back to our eyes, while water reflects fewer of these light particles/waves back into our retina). Try tracking a single falling water droplet with your eye sometime; with the right backdrop, its not as hard as you may initially think, at least if you start with your eyes straight ahead. It should be noted however, that in pouring rain the hydrogen bonding dipole forces that occur naturally in water will cause many, many water droplets to merge with each other during their flight, making things much more difficult. And yes, I tracked water droplets for fun as a kid.

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Density is a good point, bringing in a pressure concept, a less dense object tends to "float" more in air.

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Their are, albeit slight, buoyant forces in air making a case for density.

Still, one sheet of paper has the same density as a ream and a sheet fill float while a ream will drop like a stone. I would guess that the amount of air resistance also depends on surface area. Snow flakes freeze in a manner that flattens them like the thin sheets of paper. The thin objects have much more surface area per unit volume than their counterparts the thick ream and the somewhat spherical rain drop.

Also consider a flat object's ability to displace the air underneath. If dropped vertically, a sheet of paper will slice through the air. It has a "sharp" edge whereas, if flat, it would have a "dull" edge. A ream of paper dropped flat is, compared to the single sheet, relatively more "sharp" and can displace the air with ease.

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