The beauty of snow or why is snow beautiful? Part 3

Snowfall: the aesthetic experience of snowfall is basically a dynamic experience of movement which is sometimes accompanied with the creation of a snow layer. There are some meteorological conditions that effect the aesthetic appearance of snowfall.

Air temperature. In order to keep the snowflakes intact, the air temp’ should be below zero the entire way from the cloud to the ground. If the snow passes through warmer air it can partly melt. If so, the flakes are not exactly white and they are falling much faster – resembling rain more than snow.

Cloud type is responsible for the size of the flakes, their amount, and sometimes to other features like lightening. Flat cold clouds like you usually find in northern Europe, produce light snow with small flakes which is not that beautiful. Nimbostratus produce better looking snow and cumulonimbus usually makes the best looking snow.

Visibility while the snow is dropping can be a significant aesthetic factor. Sometimes the snow comes with fog. When the fog is thick your sight of the snow is impaired up to the point that you might not see it at all. In these cases, the overall aesthetic impression suffers a great deal.

Wind can affect the aesthetic appearance of dropping snow in several ways. First of all, when the wind is strong it is difficult to look, so you can’t appreciate the view. Strong wind can tear the flakes, and above all it can affect the snow movement.

Thunderstorms. Sometimes snowfall is accompanied by thunderstorms. Lightning can be a beautiful phenomenon by itself, but when it comes with snow the joint effect is fantastic.

There are also some physical elements that effect the aesthetic appearance of snowfall.

Flakes size. The mean size of snowflakes is maybe the most important parameter when we come to judge the beauty of snowfall. In this parameter it seems that on the scale of sizes that we meet: usually between 2 mm’ and 5 cm’ diameter, the bigger is gets the nicer it will look. There are several possible reasons that may explain that. First, when the flakes are bigger it is easy to follow them. Secondly, bigger flakes drop slower and with much more grace. Third explanation relies on the fact that in beneficial objects, like fruits, the big ones, in the known limits, are the more beautiful.

Flakes density. When we see just a few snowflakes coming down, it’s not very nice. When the density rises it becomes more and more beautiful – up to a limit, and then the beauty lessens. The best density exact measure depends on flake sizes and wind speed, but in order to enjoy the view you have to have enough space around each snow flack. If the density is very high, we can have another kind of beauty which relates to power.

The way the flakes are dropping is also very important aesthetic factor. The slower they fall the better. When they swing gently like butterflies it is even more beautiful. Here, the pure movement nature is the important thing, when elegance and lightness of movement are the aesthetic objectives.

Light. The exact nature of light is very important in any visual experience we have. When we are dealing with snowfall its importance rises because if it is not good, it is hard to follow the flake’s movement.

Background.  The specific background that is present behind the dropping snow is also important. When it is white or light colored, it is hard to see the flakes. When it is complex it also diminishes the aesthetic pleasure because it gets harder to focus your attention on the flakes and their movement. So, the best background to watch snow drop is a broad simple dark one.

Well, in the limits of this short post I think that I said more or less most of the interesting things that I have to say about the aesthetics of snow. Now let us all enjoy an exciting snow of the most beautiful kind, and soon!

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The beauty of snow or why is snow beautiful? Part 2

Snow layer: when we are assessing aesthetically a snow layer, we are usually doing one of three things: we either look at it as a view, experiencing it as part of the environment, or examining part of it in an abstract way. The main aesthetic parameters that affect these experiences are visual balance; composition; colors; surprise; and in the specific case of judging snow as an environment, we have in addition the smoothening of surfaces. Now, these are the important aesthetic parameters, but the external parameters that determine the exact value of these parameters are the meteorological and some physical parameters. Two of the physical parameters (Virginity and Freshness) are also aesthetic parameters in their own right.

The meteorological conditions (parameters) that contribute to an aesthetic snow layer are: Air temperature on ground level; wind characteristics while the layer is forming; and dryness of the snow.

In order to get a good looking snow layer that doesn’t melt for more than 10 minutes you have to have a sub-zero air temp’ on ground level. The lower the temperature gets, the better the snow looks. When the air temp’ is around 0 or above, the snow starts melting, and the melting process causes it to lose its grip on objects, so it starts falling from trees, fences and roofs. Also, the rising temperature causes it to change its color. Not a nice view!

Wind while forming. In order to get a good looking layer of snow, the wind should be light. If the wind is strong, it carries away the snow and pile it up next to barriers. That way, you don’t get an even layer. Moreover, strong wind won’t enable snow accumulation on trees, wires and other objects. If you are exposed to the elements while watching the snow – as you should be – strong wind, especially when it is accompanied with snow (and even worse – with rain), doesn’t let you enjoy what you are looking at, and at times even make it hard to look.

Beautiful snow needs to be dry. That means that it should be formed in a very cold cloud, and drop through very cold air without melting. Dry snow that contain less water is lighter, and sticks better to the objects it meets.

The physical conditions that make the resting snow more beautiful are Good contrast; Layer thickness; Virginity; Freshness; and the physical nature of the environment.

Some contrast between the snow and other things is almost a necessity in order to get a view that you can judge in an aesthetic way. If all you can see is a white blanket below white-gray fog you won’t have much of an aesthetic filling. On the other hand, when you have a good contrast with some dark trees, rocks, clear sky and so on, it can get beautiful. The proportion between the dark parts and the white parts that covers them has a lot of aesthetic influence too.

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The thickness of the snow layer has an aesthetic importance. When the layer is thin, let us say 4 cm’, it usually doesn’t look so nice, because the layer is usually disturbed and incomplete. When the layer is 50 cm’ everything is covered and all the fine details disappear. Usually, a layer of between 10 to 25 cm’ thickness is the most aesthetic.

Virginity. When I say “virginity” I mean that the snow is unharmed. There are no footprints on the surface, and the layer is smooth and complete. Virginity has a significant aesthetic meaning when it comes to environments, and to defined objects.

Freshness is an aesthetic quality that sometimes contribute so much to the aesthetic filling that it makes a unique kind of beauty: the beauty of freshness. In snow, like in flowers and with human-beings, the effect of freshness is very strong. Freshness is close to virginity. The main difference is that freshness relates to the time factor, i.e. how old is the snow layer looks like? When the snow looks young it is more beautiful. When it looks old, especially when parts are melting and when its color turns gray, the aesthetic quality diminishes. One of the most unaesthetic things that combines bad virginity and bad freshness are stains of mud and soot, the sad outcome of motor vehicles passing on or near the snow.

The most diverse parameter that has a significant influence is the physical nature of the environment. Topography, trees and other vegetation, rocks, bodies of water, and lots of man-made objects of many sizes and different geometric shapes, that the snow covers or attaches to, can contribute in many different ways to the overall aesthetic feeling. Usually a divers environment with many shapes and objects makes the snow layer more beautiful.

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second opinion

really interesting

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The beauty of snow or why is snow beautiful? Part 1

In this post I will try to combine two of my favorite fields of interest: weather and aesthetics. As a native Israeli which lives in the mountains near Jerusalem, I usually get some snow almost every year. Great for me! Snow in Israel is a big deal. When we have a 10-25 cm. layer of snow that accumulated on the ground, a feeling of a holy day spreads around. Schools and businesses are shutting down, the traffic stops, and many children with their parents get out to build snowmen and play. There is no doubt, in Israel snow is almost always conceived as a beautiful phenomenon. But, I suspect that in places like Finland or Canada, it is Quite different. Anyhow, in Israel as in other places, some snows are more beautiful than others.

Before trying to analyze what are the exact parameters that make snow beautiful, I think that I have to emphasize that when you talk about the beauty of snow there are two meanings to the word “snow”. The first is the layer that rests on the ground and on other things like trees, fences etc. The second is the actual snowfall – the weather phenomenon in which snowflakes are falling from clouds. Of course every snow from the first type was at some point a second type snow, but when a person is experiencing snow of the first type he can do it without seeing it falling. On the other hand, when someone observes the second type – flakes dropping gently, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a layer of snow already exists, or that it will form at all. The distinction between these two types of snow is important, because it represents two different types of beauty: the fixed one (first type) which depend on one set of aesthetic parameters, and the beauty of movement (the second type), which relates to another set of aesthetic parameters.

The parameters that are responsible to the amount of beauty regarding the two types of snow, beyond the direct aesthetic factors, can be divided into two categories: whether conditions; and Physical conditions. Beside these two broad categories that influence the aesthetic parameters, there is also one aesthetic factor that may contribute to both types, and which is influenced only by the statistics of snowy days in a given location: scarcity. As I mentioned in my aesthetic theory, there is a special kind of beauty: the beauty of scarcity. When something is rare it’s value is high. The same is true when we speak about aesthetics. When a visual phenomenon is rare, it’s aesthetic value rises, and sometimes, a neutral or a little ugly subject becomes nice if it is rare in time or space. The fact that snow is less common in Israel, as oppose to some other snowy countries, is perhaps the main reason that it’s being perceived as more beautiful here than it is there.

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