If you want to see some beautiful snowflakes, it stands to
reason that you want a place where it snows often. Snowfall maps, like these
provide some detailed information on the quantity of snowfall in North America, so we at
least have an idea where to start. The U.S. map is from The Snow Booklet and the
Canadian map is from the Atlas
Snowfall quantity is not the whole story,
however. It snows a lot in the California mountains, as you can see from the map,
but most of the snowflakes I've seen there are covered with rime (see Snowflake
Touring -- California Mountains). It's hard to say why that is, but one reason
seems to be that the temperature is too warm. Good snowflakes require cold weather.
Not just a degree or two below freezing, but some serious cold.
Another example is upstate New York. The area around Buffalo is known
for some of the deepest snow in the country, but a closer look reveals that the crystals
are often not so well formed. Here again, the temperature is probably a bit too
high, and it's also windy much of the time.
Large lakes are often associated with
frequent and substantial snowfalls, a phenomenon which is known as the lake effect.
It also appears that locations near large lakes are often good sites for
observing large snow crystals. Bentley's famous snow crystal
pictures were almost all taken at Jericho, Vermont, which is near Lake Champlain.
Antarctica, and the
South Pole in particular, is a very unique snow crystal observing spot.
The pole is very cold, very dry, and at high altitude, and snow crystals
found there tend to be small, nearly perfect, hexagonal prisms.
The very low temperatures produces sharp crystal facets (no chance of melting),
while the very slow growth tends to produce small solid prisms. Large stellar
dendrites are never found under such extreme conditions.
There are certainly
other good snow crystal locations, but we really don't know how good or
why. Nakaya took most of his photographs on the island of
Hokkaido, Japan, and clearly found some excellent crystals. Personally I'm partial to Great Plains regions, such as North
Dakota or Manitoba -- precipitation levels are fairly high, and the cold winter
temperatures allow well-formed crystals to reach the ground without melting. So what
about regions surrounding the Great Lakes? or maybe spots in Alaska?
Scandinavia? Siberia? So far there's not a lot of data one way or the other.
Is there a best spot for observing snow
crystals, a snow crystal capitol of the world? Only more observations will say, so
please send me an e-mail and tell me what the
snowflakes are like in your backyard. .