Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why is Snow White??

Maybe it's because I live in Boston and we've had more than 100 inches of snow this winter; but did you ever wonder why snow is white? (no yellow snow jokes yet...but we can explain that too!). The short answer is…snow is white for the same reason cucumbers are green, or apples are red. But, for many people the short answer won't really help without a quick refresher on color theory 101.

Think about a, green, blue, orange, violet, etc. All the colors you can see in a rainbow are the visible colors in the white light spectrum. So, that establishes the color we can see, but why do we see different objects as different colors? The answer to that is based on what visible light is absorbed by an object and what visible light is reflected by an object. A cucumber absorbs all of the rainbow colors except the green which reflects off it. The yellow snow absorbs all the colors but reflects the yellow...but what about the white snow?
Snow is really just frozen water. Under a microscope it's actually clear, like ice. But it crystallizes and traps little air pockets. All of these crystallized, hexagonal, frozen icicles reflect all of the the white light spectrum, so the snow looks white.
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