Winter trail at Taylors Island, MD

A light snow the night before creates a perfect setting for a winter walk on Taylors Island, MD.

Snow was reported on the ground of all 50 states for the first time on Feb. 12, 2010. Here are some snowy questions to ponder while shoveling your driveway or walkway. Answers are below.

1. True or false? No two snowflakes are exactly alike.

2. True or false? All snowflakes have six sides.

3. Snowflakes are not white. When light hits a snowflake, instead of being absorbed and revealing the flake’s true color, the light bounces off the flake’s faceted surface in many directions, which prevents the true color from being revealed and makes it appear white. So, what is a snowflake’s true color?

A. Pale blue

B. Pale lavender

C. Pale gray

D. Colorless

4. How many water molecules are in a typical snowflake?

A. 18,000

B. 180, 000

C. 180 million

D. 180 billion

5. Visit to see at least 35 types of snowflake shapes. (The snowflake shapes we’re most familiar with are the dendrite or star shapes.) Which of these are not flake shapes?

A. Columns

B. Needles

C. Plates

D. Spirals

6. According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, snow is a mineral. Which of these is not one of three criteria that snow had to meet to be classified a mineral?

A. Naturally occurring solid

B. Cold to touch

C. Inorganically formed

D. Definite chemical composition

7. How fast do snowflakes typically fall?

A. 1.1 miles per hour

B. 2.1 miles per hour

C. 3.1 miles per hour

D. 4.1 miles per hour

8. Was that snowstorm a blizzard, snowburst or snow squall? Match each to its description:

A. A strong-winded snowfall that doesn’t last very long

B. A storm where snow accumulates very quickly in a very short time

C. A snowfall that lasts three hours or longer with winds of at least 35 mph and less than 0.25 miles of visibility

9. How is snow helpful?

A. It recharges streams, rivers and groundwater.

B. It washes pollutants out of the air.

C. It serves as a thermal insulator by conserving Earth’s heat and protecting crops and other plants from subfreezing temperatures.

D. All of the above

10. When snow is forecast, your author worries if she has enough chocolate to ride out the storm. For others, a snowstorm and related situations are a much more serious fear that prevents them from even thinking about going outside or living an ordinary life. Match these phobias with their names.



severe weather events



Phobia name:






1. False. Scientists found two identical flakes during a 1988 Wisconsin storm.

2. True. The water molecules that make up snowflakes can only unite in a way that creates a six-sided ice crystal   

3. D   4. D   5. D   6. B   7. C   

8. A. snow squall, B. snowburst, C. blizzard 

9. D

10. ancraophobia - wind; chionophobia - snow; cryophobia - cold; lilapsophobia - severe weather events

Kathleen Gaskell is the Bay Journal's copy and layout editor and author of the Chesapeake Challenge. Contact Kathleen at

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