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Name: Ryan
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Question:
Why is it that there is more snow in higher elevation areas, and, similarly, why does it seem that snow sticks around longer in milder weather in higher elevation areas (say, if it is 50 degrees in the mountains, why does it seem that the snow sticks around longer than areas in lower elevation)? Thanks!


Replies:
Ryan,

There is typically more snow in higher elevations for at least a few reasons. First it is colder than in valleys, so more of the precipitation that falls is likely to fall as snow; snow that falls to lower elevations often melts in the warmer air below and therefore changes to rain by then time that it reaches the ground. Second, since the air temperature is typically lower on the mountain, the snow is less likely to melt, so it stays around longer. Thirdly, the falling snow is less likely to evaporate before it reaches the mountain tops since it doesn't have as far to fall as it would to lower elevations.

Snow stays around longer on the mountain because it has been colder there to start with and therefore the snowpack and soil below it needs to be warmed up more to melt the snow than at lower elevations. Also, the nights are colder on top of the mountain, so less melting would happen at night.

David R. Cook


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