Can it snow when the temperature is below zero?

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Dear Tom,
Can it snow when the temperature is below zero?

Tom Westhoff

Dear Tom,
It’s been a couple of years since we’ve addressed this frequently asked question. It won’t be heavy, but it will snow; it can never be too cold to snow. All that is necessary is water vapor in the air–and some is always present, even at very low temperatures–and a mechanism to chill the air to its saturation temperature. The Antarctic environment satisfies both conditions, and the ice cap is dramatic proof that snow falls in frigid temperatures. Direct observation confirms it as ice crystals and light snow have been observed at the South Pole station with temperatures at minus 70 degrees. Even Chicago has experienced snow with bitter cold. On Jan. 10, 1982, nearly an inch of snow fell at Midway Airport while the temperature was minus 15 degrees.

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