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Home / Science / NASA is the first to create a 3D simulation of a melting snowflake, and it's breathtakingly beautiful

NASA is the first to create a 3D simulation of a melting snowflake, and it's breathtakingly beautiful



Who does not love snow? It's the best color nature that turns natural canvases into something otherworldly and absolutely beautiful, whether it's in the Sahara or on the rusty plains of Mars. NASA, as it turns out, is also very interested in snow – and they demonstrated it by producing a mesmerizing 3D model of snowflakes in the melting process, the very first of its kind.

Many highly complex melting processes used in real-life experiments are repeated here, from the accumulation of melt water in concave segments of each individual snowflake to their accumulation to form a liquid shell around an ice core. Eventually, the snowflake transforms into a droplet of water.

Jussi Leinonen of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, the developer of the simulation, hoped to give scientists a better way to determine on the radar whether the snowfall is lighter or heavier

In an accompanying study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, Leinonen and Co-co-author Annakaisa von Lerber from the Finnish Meteorological Institute, explain further the reasons behind their model.

There is often a segment of melting snowflakes high in the atmosphere when temperatures rise when they fall to earth. "The layer of melting snowflakes can, among other things, influence weather conditions, block radio signals and pose a threat to aircraft," explain the authors. The better we can identify and analyze this layer, the better we will be on the ground.

This breathtaking work reminds us that NASA is not only interested in what lies above it, but also in the shadows behind it. They also have a state-of-the-art geoscientific program, which, despite the President's efforts, has been fueled by a somewhat defiant Congress. Climate and environmental changes are at the top of the agenda, and so is the cold world of the cryosphere.

Ice, whether in the form of single glaciers or colossal ice sheets, is hugely important to the ecological well-being of our planet ̵

1; and much of it is formed by the accumulation of snow as long as it exceeds the snowmelt of the region.

Ice and snow seem like massive mirrors that reflect a decent amount of sunlight back into space rather than being let in by the oceans. The disintegration or destabilization of the massive ice sheets and the associated shelves not only shrink these mirrors, mind you; Ultimately, it also influences the rise in sea level.

This, and for many other reasons, is why the science of snow is crucial to our understanding of the world and how it is changing. Although this undoubtedly beautiful simulation of snow is focused on ultrafine, microscopic processes, it plays a role in a larger story that partly determines the future of our planet.

The dance of a melting snowflake. NASA Goddard / Lauren Ward


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