The Difference Between Wet and Powdery Snow

Ever tried to build a snowman with powdery snow, only to find that it just won't stick? Or have you noticed how much harder it is to shovel sticky snow compared to when it's in its light, fluffy form?

The cause for these differences is the surface temperature. When surface temperatures are just above freezing, snow can melt slightly, adding more moisture and creating heavy, wet snow. When surface temperatures are below freezing, you get powder.

Powdery snow contains less water, on average 5 inches of dry snow will melt to only 0.5 of an inch of water. Wet snow, however, can equal up to an inch of water for every 5 inches of snow. Not only is wet snow heavier and therefore harder to shovel, it's also more likely to accumulate an ice layer than powdery snow.

More Weather Glossary

  • Hoar Frost

    After a cold, clear winter night without much wind, the ground and nearby tree branches may be covered by tiny, white ice crystals.

Daily U.S. Extremes

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This Day In Weather History

Buffalo, NY (2001)
The month was the mildest, most snow-free Novembers in history. There was not a flake of snow the entire month, which was the first time since records were kept.

Northeast (1875)
Severe early cold with record November lows: Location Temperature Buffalo, NY 2 degrees New York City 7 degrees Boston -2 degrees Philadelphia 8 degrees (earliest ever below 10 degrees for city)

Washington, DC (1967)
A total of 6.9 inches of snow - greatest amount ever recorded in DC on one calendar day in November.

Rough Weather