Does it snow in the southern hemisphere? Many people in the northern hemisphere look forward to snowfall because it reminds them of winter wonderlands and frozen landscapes.
But what about our friends and neighbors in the south? As the seasons change backward, people start to wonder, “Is there snow in the southern hemisphere?”
Let’s find out more about it.
Yes, it snows in the southern hemisphere in the winter, but it is more severe in some regions than others.
Does It Snow in the Southern Hemisphere?
It is quite common for people to ask, “Does it snow in the southern hemisphere during its winter?” So, what do you think?
Well, yes, it does snow in the southern hemisphere, but it is usually more common in certain regions.
More about the Southern and Northern Hemispheres
The Earth is a sphere that is divided into hemispheres by the equator.
The Northern Hemisphere has more land and people, while the Southern Hemisphere has vast expanses of open water.
Since the Earth spins on a tilted axis, each hemisphere tilts away from the Sun at opposite times of the year.
The hemispheres, therefore, experience their seasons opposite to one another so that winter in the Northern Hemisphere is summer in the Southern.
Fact: Precipitation results from winds carrying warmed water vapor inland from the seas and oceans.
Lower Percentage of Snowfall in Southern Hemisphere
As temperatures begin rising, ready for spring in the Northern Hemisphere, in the Southern Hemisphere, it is already Fall, and the temperatures are dropping.
However, because of the angle of the Earth’s tilt, both polar regions are already cold and experience much less seasonal variation than places closer to the equator.
At either pole, it snows at any time of the year but the Southern Hemisphere experiences less snow overall because there is so much more water.
Winter in the Southern Hemisphere
In the Southern Hemisphere, winter begins in June, on the winter solstice, the year’s shortest day in that hemisphere. It’ll last until August.
Although Southern Hemisphere winters are milder than those in the Northern Hemisphere, some locations are more likely to see snow than others.
Hardly any will fall in the mid and high latitudes. But, it is difficult to know how much fell elsewhere, with so little falling on land where it can be measured and recorded.
Winter Temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere
Despite the difficulties organizations like NOAA face when monitoring snowfall in the Southern Hemisphere, something is changing.
Here is a bit more about the change:
|2021||Southern Brazil experienced its first winter since 1957 with blizzards and freezing rain.||History-making weather event disturbed climatic trends.|
|2022||History-making weather events disturbed climatic trends.||Extreme heatwaves, global warming, and seasonal temperature differences.|
|2023||The Northern and Southern Hemispheres had record-high temperatures.||Santiago reached over 35°C despite its 711cm average snowfall between June and September.|
An Important Consideration
Between June and August, moist air from the Pacific is carried inland on westerly winds.
As it is forced up and over the range, the dramatic fall in temperatures can deliver snow to both sides of the mountains.
Where Does It Snow in the Southern Hemisphere?
Snow falls year-round in Antarctica. But, in the rest of the Southern Hemisphere, most snow falls at high altitudes, including on the tops of volcanoes close to the equator.
The Equator passes straight through the snow-capped summit of Cayambe in Ecuador, and the active volcano Kilimanjaro lies just 200 miles south of it.
The record for the most snow is held by Nevados de Chilian, a Chilean ski resort that saw 691 cm last winter, 68cm of it falling in the third week of August.
Snowiest Locations in the Southern Hemisphere
Argentina and Chile have a thriving snow sports industry, with 300 – 600 cm of snow falling at altitudes during winter.
There’s typically good snowfall in Australia, too, at:
- Falls Creek, Victoria.
- Thredbo and Perisher in New South Wales.
Other places don’t fare so well. Both Patagonia and New Zealand, with more land at sea level, tend to see significantly less, but even so, both countries are well known for their reliable snow.
An Important Consideration
Whakapapa and Turoa on New Zealand’s North Island recently had their worst year for snowfall. Many resorts filed for bankruptcy during 2022 as a result.
Fact: On the South Island, Treble Cone near Wanaka, hit a new record and saw 349cm of snow from June to September.
Snowfall Patterns in Southern Hemisphere
In South America, most snow falls along the central high peaks of the Andes range.
In New Zealand, about 20% of the North Island and 66% of the South Island is mountainous.
Like South America, they are surrounded by water, which greatly impacts precipitation in this region.
Fact: The Andes form a natural north to south barrier as does Mount Hutt on South Island and eastern ranges on North Island.
The Westerly Wind-belt
In South America, the winds come in from the east from the low latitudes in summer or from the west from the higher latitudes in winter.
The turbulence of this westerly wind belt is responsible for most of the winter precipitation, including the snowfall.
The wind stays at around 50oS, sending out cyclones of high winds in pulses that butt against the Andes for most of the year.
By winter, it has shifted the jet stream, making way for lower temperatures and air pressure.
Fact: In the Southern Hemisphere very little snow falls away from the mountains.
In the Antarctic, even with the latest satellite technology, recent snowfall is impossible to measure against the existing snow. But that hasn’t stopped scientists from studying the weather.
Only recently, the continent was subjected to a particularly worrying unique weather event – a heat wave during what should have been the cold season.
The temperatures were high enough to create a river of moisture in the atmosphere and bring in a huge dump of snow.
More about Unusual Snow Events in the Southern Hemisphere
It’s too early to say if the Antarctica event was because of climate change, but it is the prime suspect.
It’s not the only clue that conditions are changing in the Southern Hemisphere.
Other recent notable snowfall events include:
- The first snowfall in over a decade, dusting the ground in Johannesburg and other high-lying areas of South Africa, including the Eastern Cape.
- In south Brazil, after decades snow snow-free, an unusually cold Antarctic blast followed by freezing rain and snow causes widespread crop damage, triggering global price increases.
- Lost snow cover in the high Andes decreased precipitation, triggering a ‘mega drought’ although, in 2022, a blitz of back-to-back weather systems renewed part of the snowpack.
- 2019 as the Northern Hemisphere baked, in the Southern Hemisphere, southeast Australia was blasted by fierce Antarctic winds as a succession of cold air masses dumped snow across New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland.
The Impact of Changing Snow Patterns on Tourism
As witnessed on New Zealand’s North Island, the lack of snow doesn’t take long to negatively impact local economies.
Whakapapa and Turoa are not on their own, fearing for the worst. It’s now pretty much accepted that in the future, there will be more rain and less snow because of climate change.
But, as some regions are preparing for fewer opportunities to enjoy the snow, countries like Patagonia are preparing for survival during a long-term drought.
Although the Australia-New Zealand region has seen an increase of 3.61%, global snow-cover is declining much faster than it’s increasing.
An Important Consideration
This inevitably means there will be a snow deficit in the future. Since the snow cover acts as insulation, bouncing solar radiation back into space, its loss will contribute to global warming.
Fact: Snow sports are a big industry in the Southern Hemisphere. But, South America has already lost over 20% of its snow-cover.
Does it snow in the southern hemisphere? As we have seen, snow falls in the south during winter.
From the snow-covered peaks of the Andes to the frosty plains of Australia, snowfall in the southern hemisphere is a unique show that matches the wonders of snowfall in the northern hemisphere.
But, it is also true that things are changing, and there is likely to be a change in the snowfall hitting different regions.