How much does the snow weigh? Why spring snow breaks tree branches

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DENVER (KDVR) – Spring snow is known to cause downed power lines and broken tree branches in Colorado.

Part of the reason is that leaves are starting to grow on trees, creating more surface area for snow to stick and weighing down the branches. But another important factor that determines the weight of snow is temperature.

In the middle of winter, when temperatures are colder, liquid to snow ratios are usually around 15: 1 or 20: 1. This means that if 20 inches of snow fell and was reduced to liquid water, that would be an inch of water. This is what we describe as light, fluffy snowfall that is not good for making snowballs or snowmen.

When temperatures are closer to freezing, the snow-to-liquid ratios typically seen in the spring drop to 10 to 1 or even 5 to 1 if the temperatures are warm enough. This is what creates heavy, wet, slushy snow that can cause problems with power lines, trees and even roofs.

In the spring, when the snow ratios are closer to 10 to 1, that means 10 inches of snow would equal 1 inch in the form of liquid water.

The graph below shows the amount of snow on a roof as a function of the snow / liquid ratio. At a 15 to 1 ratio, the snow is light and fluffy. If 24 inches of snow falls over 1,500 square feet at this ratio, it’s like having the weight of two trucks on your roof.

At a 5-to-1 ratio, heavy wet snow will add significantly more weight than a 15-to-1 ratio. If 24 inches of snow falls on 1,500 square feet at a 5-to-1 ratio, that’s close. the weight of having 6 trucks on your roof. This is why spring snow has a much greater impact on trees, power lines and roofs.


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