Breakdown: The colder the temperature, the less likely it is to snow. Why?

Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 9:32 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A question meteorologist get asked all the time during the cold winter months is “can it ever be too cold to snow?” Well, the short answer is no.

In actuality, earth’s troposphere is not too cold to snow but rather it’s “too dynamically stable to snow”.

According to NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory: It rarely snows when the temperature drops below zero degrees Fahrenheit because the atmosphere is too stable.

One of the ingredients for snow is enough lifting of saturated air that snow can develop aloft and fall to reach the surface.

When it is said, “it is too cold to snow,” in reality it means there is not enough lifting of air to cause snow to reach the surface.

Even at very cold surface temperatures, significant snowfall can occur.

Intense lifting can produce significant precipitation, even at very low temperatures.

The temperature higher in the atmosphere can be much warmer than the air temperature at the surface, and that warm air aloft can hold more moist air than the colder air at the surface.

And, moisture can be transferred into the area where lifting is occurring through advection (the horizontal movement of an air mass).

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