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9 Astonishing Facts You Don't Know About Snow and Winter

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When winter strikes, we tend to complain about the weather or the snow. However, there are some astounding facts about both winter and snow that most people don't know. If you don't, please don't feel bad. You have lots of company and can use this as an opportunity to learn.

1. Earth's distance to the sun

     Image: Gothika  CC by-SA 3.0

Winter in places like Europe, Asia, Canada and the US carries a fact that might seem counter-intuitive. The earth doesn't orbit the sun in a circle. The orbit is an ellipse. Because of this, at certain times in the year, the earth is closer to the sun than it is at other times of the year. However, the surprising fact is that the earth is actually closer to the sun during the winter in the northern hemisphere than it is during the summer.

At it's closest, the earth is about 91.3 million miles from the sun. At the greatest distance, it is about 94.4 million miles from the sun. This is a difference of around 3.1 million miles. However, it is during wintertime in the north that we are actually closest to the sun.

2. Fast moving snowflakes

It is all too easy to think that snowflakes don't fall very fast. This is partly because of observation. It isn't unusual to see snowflakes drifting down like feathers, buoyed up by the air. However, this is an optical illusion that can be quite deceptive.

Light, fluffy snowflakes actually fall at a rate of about 5 feet every second. If the snow is in the form of pellet snow, it can fall faster than this.

Complicating it more is something that most people don't think about. A blizzard is caused by a combination of wind and snow. If the wind is blowing at 30 miles per hour, the snow is being blown along at nearly that speed. This means that while snow may only be falling at about three and a half miles per hour (5 feet per second), the flakes can be moving laterally at a far greater speed and can exceed the fastest that you can run.

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