Snowflakes on Mount Etna

June 02, 2022


Photographer: Cinzia Lo Certo

Summary Authors: Cinzia Lo Certo; Cadan Cummings

The photo above was taken during a cold winter morning on Mount Etna near Nicolosi, Italy. At an elevation of around 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level, this region on Etna sometimes experiences weather conditions that can produce snow. These snowflakes form when a water droplet condenses and freezes around a small particle in our atmosphere, such as dust or pollen. As a water droplet freezes, ice crystals slowly begin growing. Throughout the process, ice crystals continue to grow as they encounter ever-changing conditions in our atmosphere with different humidity and temperature. These tiny fluctuations favor or inhibit the formation of different ice crystal structures. The two basic processes in which crystals develop are through 'facets / flat faces' or 'branches'. Often these two processes alternate back and forth during snowflake creation, however, they can also happen simultaneously. In the case of the snowflakes above, they are in the plate formation zone with a temperature between 26°F to 32°F (-3°C to 0°C).


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