Snow, Elevation, and Temperature
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!
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
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
Click here to return to the Weather Archives
Update: June 2012