John Wheeler: How can snow melt when it's freezing?

Snow often melts away from the sidewalks, streets, and roads in weather that is significantly colder than the melting point of water.

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FARGO — Things are not always what they seem, unless you know more about the processes. For example, snow often melts away from the sidewalks, streets and roads in weather that is significantly colder than the melting point of water. There is a myriad of reasons for this. Salt and dirt can actually lower the melting temperature of water.

Solar radiation is an even bigger factor. It is intuitive that the sun's rays can melt snow at temperatures well below freezing because of the way those same rays feel warm on your face. However, it is less intuitive on one of the dark and cloudy days of November. Think of it like this: On a dark and cloudy day, can you see or is it dark? Even on a cloudy day, there is sunlight, and those warming infrared rays are getting through the clouds, too, with the capability of melting snow even on a cold day.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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