Snow and Sound: Why it’s so quiet

Weathering The Storm

Have you ever noticed how quiet it is when it’s snowing outside? If so, you know what I’m talking about. If not, the next time the snow is falling, stick your head out the door and just listen. It’s a pretty incredible silence.

There’s a scientific reason why it’s so quiet though, and it’s a pretty neat one. Snow actually will absorb sound waves. In a snowflake, there are many air pockets and gaps unlike with a a rain drop. Those gaps can act much like sound absorbers would in a restaurant or a studio, and keep the sound from bouncing around. Because snow is so porous, snow can actually absorb around 60% of the sound as it fall and as it is on the ground.

Not all snow is created equally, though. You’ll need a few inches of snow to have this effect. A dusting won’t cut it. And, as the snow falls, it can change shape if it melts, and it also can melt and refreeze while on the ground. This can actually reverse the effect. Snow that melts and refreezes turning into ice can in turn magnify sound waves and bounce/scatter them around, making it feel a little louder.

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