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Name: Roy
Status: educator
Grade: 9-12
Location: IL
Country: USA
Date: Winter 2013-14


Question:
As I remember it from many years ago, WTTW aired a documentary about Alaska and included a segment on the Eskimos. One line got me - the Eskimos can tell the outside temperature by listening to someone driving or walking by from the squeak of the snow. MY QUESTION - What is the relationship between the squeak and the temperature?


Replies:
Roy,

I would not put myself at the level of Native Alaskans, but living as I do in Buffalo, I can tell you that I can sense that the snow feels and acts differently depending on the ambient temperature. Mostly, this is from the difference in liquid water content of a snow drift and how the snow packs when it falls to the ground. Dryer snow tends to be "crunchier" - packing together without much melt incorporated, not much slush. So my guess is that the ambient temperature controls how much liquid water is incorporated in the drifts, and the amount of liquid water or how easily the snow becomes liquid water when stepped on, changes the sound of footsteps.

Greg (Roberto Gregorius) Canisius College


You do not have to be Inuit to detect temperature with a pair of boots. In WI or IL if the temperature is in the vicinity of 0C ice is slippery. But beginning at about -5 C or so, snow becomes ?grainy? and has more the texture of fine sand. This is an approximate observation. Cold snow gives tires a ?grip? that disappears at the temperature approaches 0 C.

Vince Calder


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