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Name: Katherine 
Status: student
Grade: 6-8
Location: IA
Country: USA
Date: Winter 2012-2013


Question:
How do blizzards effect Earth in a positive way?


Replies:
Blizzards can be good or bad or good-and-bad.

On the Good side Blizzards restore the snow pack on mountain tops that melts and provides water to the communities below all summer. Blizzards restore moisture to the ground during the winter so crops can be planted in the Spring. Blizzards cause holidays from work and from school. Blizzards make families stay inside and get to know each other better. Blizzards are fun to make snowmen out of and to have snowball fights with friends and neighbors. Blizzards are fun when lakes freeze over and you can go ice skating. Blizzards are fun for sliding down hills in sleds. Blizzards provide snow for skiing. Blizzards clear the air of dust and soot. Blizzards transform familiar landscapes with a magical carpet of white show that glistens in the sunlight.

On the bad side Blizzards make roads slick with ice and dangerous to drive on. Blizzards are extreme cold which can cause frost bite that leads to amputation of extremities and possibly death. Blizzards are wet which can cause people to suffer from hypothermia and die. Blizzards obscure visibility which vexes airplanes, ships, cars and trucks and other modes of transportation. Blizzards prevent other animals to hunt and possibly starve because the food animals are in hiding to keep warm. Blizzards build conditions for avalanches that do no harm when no one is in the way. Blizzards can build up so heavily that it collapses the roofs on buildings. Blizzards produce snow that burden the trees that fall on power lines and cut off electric power.

Good and bad Blizzards cause the sick and weak animals to fall to the wayside to feed wolves, bears, coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, crows, vultures and all kinds of other wildlife. Blizzards cost a lot of money to communities to keep the roads and highways open, but it provides income for people who clear the snow.

Katherine, how many other characteristics of blizzards can you think of?

Sincere regards, Mike Stewart


Hi Katherine,

Thanks for the question. A blizzard is a big snowstorm. Snow is a form of precipitation and brings water (albeit frozen) to the ground. The melting of snow from blizzards gives rise to streams, rivers, lakes, and other surface waters. We need water for agriculture such as growing corn in Iowa and grapes in Oregon.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks Jeff Grell


Katherine,

You have brought up a very interesting question. Few people would think that snow and blizzards have positive aspects, unless it is ski slope owners.

However, climatologically, more snow cover over a larger than normal area would result in more reflection of solar radiation from the snow back to the atmosphere and to space. This reduces the amount of solar energy absorbed by Earth and thereby reduces the temperature of Earth. The ice ages occurred as increasing amounts of snow cover blanketed Earth, reducing Earth's temperature, thereby also allowing more snowfall, etc. in a cycle that did not break until another external force started to warm the Earth.

Newly fallen snow often reflects 90% of the solar radiation back upwards. Some of this is absorbed by the atmosphere, but most returns to space. As snow "ages" and gets dirty, it reflects less efficiently.

Blizzards can help to renew snow cover reflectivity by exposing more reflective snow from under the snow surface or by adding new snow to the surface.

David R. Cook Meteorologist Atmospheric and Climate Research Program Environmental Science Division Argonne National Laboratory


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