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.

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This Day In Weather History

Cheyenne, WY (1990)
All-time October snowfall for 24 hours - a total of 7.9 inches fell. The total for the entire storm was 9 inches.

Fort Wayne, IN (1992)
Straight - line thunderstorm winds of 125 mph destroyed 5 homes and damaged 99.

Victoria BC (1997)
5,000 left without power as a result of an early morning storm.

Rough Weather