Weather Whys: How can it snow when the temperature is above 32°?

Weather Whys: How can it snow when the temperature is above 32°?

Today's Weather Whys answers a common question meteorologists get: How can it snow when the temperature outside is above 32°?

The process of precipitation, especially in winter, depends heavily not just on the temperature at the surface where we live but also the temperature in the middle of the atmosphere and at the top.

When the temperature is above 32° from the top of the atmosphere to the bottom precipitation falls as rain. When the temperatures at the top and middle of the atmosphere are warm but it's below 32° at the surface you get freezing rain which falls as rain until it hits a hard surface and freezes. Sleet is formed by warm air at the top of the atmosphere and cold air in the middle and lower levels of the atmosphere. The water droplet freezes into an ice pellet before it reaches the ground. Snow forms when you have cold air below 32° in the majority of the atmosphere and even if there's a little warmth at the surface it's not cold enough for that snow to melt. 

Weather Whys is a segment by Meteorologist Justin Thompson-Gee that airs during the CBS 58 News on WMLW - The M from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. The segment answers viewer weather questions, explains weather phenomena and reveals interesting weather stats. To submit your question reach out to Justin on Facebook, Twitter or by emailing him at [email protected].

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