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John Wheeler: 'How much snow fell?' is not the right question

The difference between a wet snow and a dry snow is the amount of air trapped in the accumulation.

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FARGO โ€” "How much snow fell?" If you think about it, this is not really the right question. When it rains, we may ask, "how much fell?" because the volume of rain in a gauge is representative of the volume of water that fell from the sky. Snow is different because it falls in irregularly shaped crystals that accumulate differently from one snow to another. We described last Tuesday's snow as wet, whereas the snowstorm on March 1 was a much lighter, airier accumulation.

Snow is made of ice. However, this ice accumulates with varying amounts of air between the flakes. The difference between a wet snow and a dry snow is the amount of air trapped in the accumulation. There is truly no way to answer, "How much snow fell?" We really show be asking, "How much snow accumulated?"

John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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