Humidity and Snow Melt
Name: Michael N.
Does an increase in humidity of the air increase the rate
at which snow melts? Do you have any references on this?
Snow melt is a very complex process, with many factors affecting it.
Relative humidity is only one, and certainly not the major factor. For
snow to melt, heat energy must be supplied. There are many references on
the Internet concerning snow melt. One of the best in my opinion, is the
University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. I have extracted the
following from this link:
energy budget of the melting snowpack
source of energy for snow melt
solar radiation (insolation)
sensible heat of the air
sensible of heat of rain
the relative importance of these energy sources is depends on
continuity of the snowpack
time of day and season
All these factors are explained in non-technical term in the referenced
link. I suggest you visit that link and hopefully the answer to your
question will be found there.
Wendell Bechtold, meteorologist
Forecaster, National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office, St. Louis, MO
When you say "humidity", I assume that you mean relative humidity. It is likely that higher
relative humidities imply warmer temperatures, and thus a greater ability to melt snow.
Aside from this situation, a higher absolute humidity (amount of water vapor in the air) could
enhance warming of the air from increased absorption of long wave radiation, thus enhancing
The increase of relative humidity in and of itself would not directly increase the rate of snow
melt, only indirectly as explained above.
David R. Cook
Atmospheric Research Section
Environmental Research Division
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Update: June 2012