WEATHER

Utah research may change everything we know about snowfall

Dec 26, 2023, 9:00 AM

Utah snowfall study...

Brock Peery and his daughter Berkley, 6, walk back to their car during a snowstorm in Salt Lake City on March 24. A new study led by University of Utah researchers offers new insight into how and why Utah snowfall happens the way it does. (Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

(Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Most people already know that virtually no two snowflakes are alike, but a new study led by University of Utah researchers offers new insight into how and why all of these individual snowflakes fall the way they do.

Their findings, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Physics of Fluids last week, note that despite the “complexity of snowflake structures and the non-uniform nature of the turbulence,” snowflake acceleration, or how fast snow falls, can be “uniquely determined” through a math equation.

“It suggests that there is something underlying in the atmosphere that is really deeply simple, and I’m not quite sure what it is but our results suggest there may be ways to describe one of the most difficult aspects of the atmospheric sciences in a way that perhaps could be approached by a computer model in a fairly straightforward way,” said Tim Garrett, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah, and one of the study’s co-authors.

The findings could open the door for a better understanding of snowstorms and avalanches, improving forecasting in the future.

Snowfall and movement

The study’s findings are more than a decade in the making. Garrett started measuring how fast snowflakes fall in Alta when he decided to dive much deeper into the subject. He figured it was the perfect topic to explore given his interest in the physics of the motion and how Utahns generally love to talk about snow.

Check out the rest of the story by Carter Williams on KSL.com.

Related: Utah snow base dropping due to high temps

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Utah research may change everything we know about snowfall