When snowflakes screech

With its ability to create muffled winter landscapes, snow is usually associated with quiet. When it falls on a body of water, one might expect snow to be just as silent.

Instead, snow falling on water creates high-pitched screeching sounds, which last for roughly a ten-thousandth of a second.

The snowflake’s presence on a water surface creates capillary action (the attraction between a liquid and solid surface), causing water to rush upwards, says Larry Crum of the University of Washington. The upward flow of water either generates air bubbles or unleashes air bubbles in the snowflake as it melts.

The bubbles oscillate as they reach equilibrium with their environment, creating sound waves of up to 200 kilohertz — out of the range of human hearing (which stops at 20 kHz) but potentially audible to dolphins

Leave a Reply