One of the reasons why we love winter and find it mesmerizing is because of how calm the world seems after it snows. Most of us don’t know why everything becomes quieter when there’s new snow on the ground. But you might’ve wondered the reason behind this peaceful phenomenon.
Well, there’s a proper scientific reason behind it. So does snow absorb sound? Let’s find out!
Snow has the inherent ability to absorb sound. When a blanket of fresh snow covers the landscape, it absorbs sound waves and makes everything seem calm and quiet outside. Snow absorbs sound extremely well as it is porous. As snowflakes are crystals with six sides, they have open spaces. These spaces can absorb sound waves and create a soundproofing effect.
So the next time you notice the calmness that envelops the world after a snowfall, you will know that it’s because of snow’s inherent characteristics. If you would like to know a bit more about this topic, keep reading.
So let’s find out exactly how snow can affect the sound, how many sound waves it can absorb, and much more!
Does The Environment Become Quieter When It Snows?
We have all noticed how peaceful and calm the world appears after a good snowfall. Snow has the mystical power to make the world around you seem a lot quieter.
Whenever it snows, the landscape almost feels as if it has come to a halt. You may think it’s only your mind playing tricks, but that’s not all there is to it. Of course, it’s not magic either.
There are many reasons why everything falls quiet after a snowfall. One of them could be because, during snowstorms, people tend to stay at home.
Snow has the magical ability to slow down the frantic pace everyone keeps in the city area. Everyone takes a break from their usual routine, and as a result, there is even less outdoor activity.
You will easily notice fewer people bustling around and even fewer cars on the road when it snows. The National Audubon Society reports that even birds tend to take shelter during bad weather. This reduced number of sound sources contributes to the noticeable sense of quietness.
Aside from this, snow’s porous characteristics that absorb sound plays a major role in the quietness that surrounds us. Asphalt, ice, compacted snow, and even frozen grass are all less absorbent than fresh snow.
As a result, the earth reflects far less sound after a snowstorm than it did before. So sound fades more as it travels further away, making the noises that reach you quieter.
Does Snow’s Characteristics Affect Sound?
Most of us will notice how the sound can change following a fresh snowfall. This is because the age and characteristics of snow have much to do with how sound waves travel in the atmosphere. Sometimes, snow can dampen sound waves, and other times, it can enhance them.
After a fresh snowfall, when the ground is covered by a thick blanket of fluffy snow, the surface of the snow can easily absorb sound waves. This dampens sound and the environment becomes quieter.
However, the weather and time may change the condition of the snow surface.
For instance, when the snow melts and then refreezes, it becomes smooth and firm. This firm surface will then assist in the reflection of sound waves.
So, under such circumstances, sound may appear even clearer and travel further.
How Does Sound Get Dampened During A Snowfall?
After a fresh snowfall, the snowy surfaces that cover the ground can absorb sound waves. When the snowflakes slowly fall, the soundwaves get scattered along the way or get curved out into space.
As a result, the sounds you hear nearby sound clearer, but when further away, they seem damp before they reach you.
It is difficult to beat the peaceful silence that dawns after a fresh snowfall. There’s something special and unique about the quality of sound after a snowfall.
Most of us who are fortunate enough to live in the snowy areas of the world are well familiar with it. It brings an eerie but peaceful silence that signals the arrival of the season’s first snowflakes.
As magical as it may seem, there are several reasons why sound becomes muffled during a snowfall. They are –
As I have explained before, snow can absorb sound. A study conducted by the University of Kentucky and published in Science Daily states that freshly fallen snow functions as a soundproofing system for itself.
But to fully understand this phenomenon, let’s look at two events that occur when it snows. The first is the way different surfaces absorb sound.
Acoustic science has demonstrated that insulating surfaces with small holes are particularly effective when it comes to absorbing sounds. This is why you will find most recording studios covering their walls with foam.
As most Inuit people in the Arctic are well-aware of, snow makes an amazing insulator. Its external surface includes many small holes through which air can easily enter.
So when sound bounces off snow, it gets absorbed before it reaches you. This lowers both its volume and its reverberation.
The most obvious reason as to how falling snowflakes can affect sound waves is that they get in the way and scatter the sound waves.
This is why less sound reaches your ears. But this is only a minor cause as snowflakes are comparatively smaller than the wavelength of sound we take in.
Snowfall doesn’t affect frequencies that are low and bassy all that much. But it affects high and treble frequencies a bit more in comparison.
Even so, it’s not a major reason behind the snowy stillness you experience in the winter.
This is another reason why everything sounds quiet after a snowfall but only a minor one. Sound tends to travel quite slowly through dense material. As cold air is comparatively denser than warm air, sound curves more in colder air.
When it snows, the air is usually warmer near the ground and colder above. This causes the sound to curve up and away above in the atmosphere. Eventually, the sound fades into space never to be heard again.
How Much Sound Wave Can Snow Absorb?
Snow has a sound absorption rating of between 0.5 and 0.9. This means snow can absorb almost 50% to 90% of the sound surrounding it.
According to a study by David Herrin, associate professor of acoustics at the University Of Kentucky College of Engineering, snow is an incredibly strong sound absorber.
He states that snow absorbs sound in a similar way to most sound-absorbing materials. This includes products like foams and fibers that HVAC systems and cars use.
Snow can absorb sound as it is porous. The Michigan State University Extension states in their study that snowflakes a crystal with six sides.
These six sides have open spaces in between and can easily absorb sound waves. So when you see the entire world covered in a thick blanket of white snow, it can absorb a lot of the soundwaves in the atmosphere.
This makes the world seem quieter than usual. According to AccuWeather, sound absorption is measured on a scale ranging from 0 to 1.
For example, if something has a 0.5 sound absorption rating, it can absorb 50% of the sound around it. On average, a few inches of snow is around 0.6 or 60% absorbing.
Why Does Stepping on Snow Make a Sound?
Snow can crunch and creak when you step on it. You can hear this sound when you squash snow during colder temperatures.
A layer of snow consists of many small ice grains that are surrounded by air. So when you step on snow, you are basically compressing the grains and causing them to rub against each other. This causes resistance or friction.
The intensity of this friction between grains of ice depends on how low the temperature is.
You can hear the distinctive cracking or crunching sound when you abruptly squash snow during low temperatures.
At higher temperatures, there’s less friction. So when the ice starts melting, there’s so little friction that the ice grains rubbing against each other produce little to no sound.
While it may be difficult to identify exactly at what temperature the snow begins to crunch. But the colder the snow, the louder the crunch.
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The moments that follow a snowstorm are often shrouded in white, and the great outdoors can seem noticeably quieter than normal. This eerily quiet world may seem unnatural, but it’s not simply your imagination.
So you may wonder what the scientific explanation behind this beautiful silence is. It’s likely that the question: does snow absorb sound may have popped up in your head.
In this article, I have explained how the intrinsic characteristics of snow play a huge role in influencing how sound travels. I hope the article has answered all the questions you were curious about. Thanks for reading till now & have a nice day.