why does it feel warmer when it snows

Why does it feel warmer when it snows? How many times have you asked this question while enjoying the snow?

The intriguing contradiction between weather science and human physiology lies in the peculiar experience of feeling warmer amidst snowfall.

And no, you are not losing your mind because many people feel the same. But, the question is, “why do it feel warmer when it snows?”

It feels warmer when it snows because of its insulating properties and reflective nature, as well as the impact of humidity and a psychological effect

Understanding the Concept of Snow Formation

understanding the concept of snow formation

Snow originates as ice crystals within the atmosphere, which develop around minuscule particles when the temperature drops below the freezing point.

As the ice crystals make their way down, they come across various temperature and humidity circumstances, resulting in their enlargement and aggregation.

This ultimately gives rise to the formation of snowflakes.

In order for this process to take place, it is generally necessary for the atmospheric temperature to be at least -10 to -12 degrees Celsius (14 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit)

An Important Consideration

If the temperature drops any further, the atmosphere becomes incapable of retaining sufficient moisture to create snowflakes.

Consequently, alternative types of precipitation such as ice crystals or freezing fog occur

Why Does It Feel Warmer When It Snows?

why snow makes it feel warmer

Contrary to commonly held notions, you can witness snow in environments you cannot really call cold.

Actually, it frequently feels warmer when it snows due to the formation of snow in comparably mild sub-zero conditions.

In order to comprehend the reasons behind this occurrence, it is imperative to gain insight into the intricate process of snow formation

Heat Transfer and Insulation

heat transfer and insulation

Snow exhibits distinct characteristics that enhance its ability to insulate.

Similar to numerous effective insulators, snow contains trapped air, resulting in its limited ability to conduct heat.

The substantial air gaps among snowflakes, accounting for approximately 90-95% of the snow’s overall volume, effectively hinder conduction. 

This results in a decrease in the speed of heat transfer from warmer to cooler regions.

Fact: Snow may block out wind, adding an extra layer of insulation and making it feel warmer. 

The Blanket Effect of Snowfall

the blanket effect of snowfall

When snow descends and gathers on the earth’s surface, it functions as a cozy cover.

It means it inhibits the release of warmth from the ground into the surrounding air.

The layer of snow decreases the thermal gradient between the ground and the atmosphere, which helps to minimize the loss of heat from the Earth’s surface.

Despite the winter chill, the air surrounding us might feel noticeably more pleasant during snowfall.

And that is especially true in contrast to a clear, starry night when temperatures can drop rapidly due to radiation cooling.

This occurrence clarifies why, ironically, a wintry day with snow can feel less bitterly frigid than a winter night with clear skies. 

An Important Consideration

The blanket effect is the reason why in areas with substantial snowfall, the subterranean or lower levels of the soil frequently stay unfrozen.

This provides an opportunity for certain animals to hibernate beneath the layer of snow.

Fact: Snow can help keep the nighttime temperature down by retaining some of the heat is absorbed during the day. 

The Role of Humidity

the role of humidity

Snowfall is a meteorological phenomenon closely linked to the moisture content in the air.

The process of snow formation begins when cold air becomes saturated, causing water vapor to condense around tiny particles and create ice crystals.

This occurrence generally occurs when the air’s relative humidity is elevated. In fact, there is a direct connection between humidity and snowfall.

For instance:

Humidity LevelSnowfall PotentialDescription
LowLowLow humidity prevents snowfall because the atmosphere lacks moisture.
ModerateModerateModerate humidity can cause snowfall, especially in cooler temperatures and when weather systems deliver moisture. Snowfall is usually modest. 
HighHighHigh humidity can cause heavy, frequent snowfall in cold climates. Snow may persist and accumulate.
VariableVariableLocal terrain, proximity to big bodies of water, and weather patterns greatly affect snowfall potential in regions with variable humidity.

As the moisture in the atmosphere gets depleted during snow formation, the remaining air is left with a significantly elevated level of relative humidity. And that makes us feel warmer. 

Your Perception of Humidity

your perception of humidity

The perception of temperature changes in human bodies is influenced by different humidity levels.

Elevated levels of humidity have the potential to create a perception of increased warmth in the air due to its impact on the body’s ability to cool down through sweat evaporation.

In humid conditions, our bodies have a harder time cooling down because sweat does not evaporate as effectively, causing us to feel warmer.

Fact: Snowflakes feature air pockets that trap heat, so stepping on freshly fallen snow might initially feel warm. 

The Humidity Factor During Snowfall

the humidity factor during snowfall

During snowy weather, the presence of high humidity tends to create a perception of increased warmth in the surrounding temperature compared to dry conditions.

The sensation can generate a somewhat contradictory sense of coziness while it snows.

As an example, during a winter day with a temperature of 23F, the sensation of warmth in the air can be noticeably different when it snows. 

And therefore, it becomes more humid compared to when it is dry, despite the temperature remaining unchanged.

This phenomenon plays a significant role in creating the feeling of warmth amidst a snowfall. 

The Complexity of Temperature Perception

the complexity of temperature perception

The intricate process of perceiving temperature during a snowfall encompasses a combination of physiological responses and psychological associations in humans.  

A particular element to consider is the wind chill impact, a phenomenon that causes us to perceive a lower temperature on breezy days in comparison to tranquil ones with the same temperature.

The wind speeds up the process of losing body heat by causing moisture to evaporate and removing the naturally surrounding warm air.

However, when it snows, the atmosphere tends to be moderate, which decreases the impact of wind chill, causing us to potentially interpret the temperature differently.

Fact: When snow accumulates on tree branches, it can protect from harsh winds and improve living conditions for animals trying to stay warm. 

The Psychological Impact of Snow’s Reflectiveness

the psychological impact of snow's reflectiveness

In addition to physical factors, our perception of temperature is also influenced by psychological elements.

One particular element relates to the luminous, mirror-like appearance of recently accumulated snow. 

More about the Albedo Effect of Snow

The high albedo of snow, which refers to its capacity to reflect sunlight, generates a more luminous atmosphere.

The human mind frequently links brightness with warmth, a phenomenon that becomes more pronounced on sunny days following a snowfall, as the reflectivity of the ground can almost double.

The psychological connection we have can cause us to perceive the surroundings as warmer while it is snowing and even after, despite the fact that the real temperature remains low. 

Adaptation and Anticipation

adaptation and anticipation

The human brain functions as a predictive mechanism, continuously anticipating forthcoming circumstances by drawing from previous encounters and present signals.

The presence of snow is a strong signal that prompts the anticipation of low temperatures, causing us to adjust our actions accordingly.

When the snow begins to fall, we can enhance our warmth by wearing additional layers of clothing, enjoying hot beverages, or finding shelter indoors.

These actions can all contribute to a heightened sense of warmth.

The proactive measures we have taken to insulate ourselves from the cold can create a sense of warmth in snowy conditions. 

Adaptation to Prevailing Conditions

In the event of consecutive days of frigid weather, even a slight rise in temperature accompanied by snowfall can create the illusion of a substantial warming trend.

This phenomenon occurs because our bodies have adjusted to the lower baseline temperature, causing any rise in temperature, no matter how small, to be interpreted as pleasant heat.

adaptation to prevailing conditions

The ability to adapt is a crucial survival strategy that enables us to thrive in various environmental circumstances. 

An Important Consideration

During the winter season, a day with a maximum temperature of 39.2F could feel pleasantly warm following a period of extreme cold.

However, the identical temperature would seem rather cool during the peak of summer.

Fact: Since fresh snow can absorb some of the surrounding noise, it can help to create a more peaceful atmosphere. 


why snowfall feels warmer

Why does it feel warmer when it snows?

Although it may appear contradictory, there are several explanations for why the temperature can feel higher during snowfall.

The unique interplay of various meteorological elements, such as the specific temperatures conducive to snow formation, the insulating characteristics inherent in snow, and elevated levels of humidity influence our perception of temperature.

The combination of these factors creates a sensation that can be characterized as a ‘cozy snow shower.