The Hush of Snow
Art by : Brenda Pepper
Snow ... it looks white and sparkling. It feels cold and often fluffy. It smells clean and crisp. But how does it sound?
After snow has fallen, the world can seem silent. Everything is quiet except the crunch of the snow under your feet. Snow silences the chatter of voices. It hushes the sounds of traffic. What happens to the noise? And why does it happen only when the snow is fresh and new?
When snow falls, it falls lightly, and freshly fallen snow is fluffy stuff. Its beautifully patterned ice crystals leave lots of room for spaces between them.
Anything filled with lots of little holes and spaces is good at trapping sound waves. So it's a great husher-upper. Sounds that usually would bounce back from the ground bounce around inside these spaces instead. The ice crystals absorb the sounds.
In the hours and days after the snow has fallen, it gradually changes. Its ice crystals slowly lose their six-sided feathery forms and become almost round grains that pack together more closely. The snow cover shrinks and settles. It has lost its air spaces. The hush is gone.
Just how much space is there in newly fallen snow? Here is a simple experiment you can do to find out.
As snow begins to fall, set an empty coffee can outside, away from buildings and trees. Or fill a can with loose snow. Be careful not to pack it down.
Use a ruler to measure the depth of the snow in the can. Then melt the snow in a warm place. Compare the depth of the snow to the depth of the water from the melted snow. A layer of snow can sometimes be ten times as deep as the water that comes from it.
This experiment shows that fresh-fallen snow contains a lot of space. Try the same experiment with snow that is a day or two old. You will see that older snow holds less space.
Now listen to noises. Notice how soft they are when the ground is covered with new snow. Then listen to the same noises when the snow is a day old and again when there is no snow.
See how quiet the world can be. Listen for the hush of the snow.
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