Are All Mountains Covered in Snow?

If you’ve ever seen the Rocky Mountains, you can’t help but be amazed by their stunning beauty. When their peaks are adorned with snow, they create a breathtaking sight.

Contemplating the beauty of mountains led us to wonder why some of them have snow on the top (known as a snowcap) while others do not. Since the top of a mountain is closer to the Sun, shouldn’t it be warmer up there? And doesn’t heat rise? So why is there snow?

Contrary to expectations, the top of the mountain is actually the coldest spot. As you ascend a mountain to higher altitudes, the atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner. This occurs because air pressure decreases with altitude.

Although warm air rises, as it does so, it expands and cools. When it expands and cools, it cannot absorb and retain heat in the same way it does at the base of the mountain.

Despite being closer to the Sun, mountaintops are also farther away from the thermal heat of the Earth’s core that warms the ground. Consequently, the top of the mountain can be much colder than the base.

In fact, the base of a mountain can be situated in a tropical jungle while the summit of the mountain has snow! This explains why it is possible to have snow at the equator.

Cooler temperatures at the top of a mountain also result in less evaporation. This leads to higher levels of moisture in the air. More moisture means more rain and, at the very top of a mountain, more snow.

Not all mountains have snowcaps, and not all mountains that receive snow have them all year round. This depends largely on their location and height. Mountains at lower altitudes are less likely to have snowcaps or have them throughout the year.

However, many mountains do have snowcaps all year round. Above a certain point, known as the snow line, it remains cold enough for the snow to never melt.

The height of the snow line varies across the world. It is determined by both altitude (the height of the mountain) and latitude (the location of the mountain). For example, the snow line is much higher near the equator (around 15,000 feet) compared to near the poles (sea level or 0 feet in altitude).

The snow line can also be influenced by other factors. For instance, in the Andes Mountains of South America, the region is so dry that the mountains rarely experience snow, despite their height and distance from the equator. Monte Pissis in Argentina is the tallest mountain in the world without a permanent snowcap.

Mountains near coastlines may have a lower snow line than other areas at the same altitude and latitude. As you approach a coastline, the amount of moisture in the air tends to result in more snowfall at higher altitudes.

Give It a Try

Are you ready to embark on a journey of knowledge? Make sure to engage in the following activities with a friend or family member:

Are you ready to prepare a delicious treat? Since we have learned that heat rises but there can still be snow and ice on mountaintops, we thought it would be fun to go to the kitchen and make a treat that is both hot and cold. Have you ever tried baking ice cream? No? Well, it’s time to give it a try. Just follow the instructions online to learn how to make Baked Ice Cream!

If there is no snow where you are right now, don’t worry. You can make your own snow. Really! And you only need a few ingredients. Go online to learn How To Make Perfect Fake Snow!

If you do have snow where you live right now, what are you waiting for? Go out and play in the snow! If you need help coming up with activities, go online and check out 20 Fun Activities To Do in the Snow. Choose a couple of activities to try with your friends and family members.

Sources of wonder:

– http://www-das.uwyo.edu/~geerts/cwx/notes/chap10/snowline.html (accessed on 18 Feb., 2019)

– https://www.britannica.com/science/snow-line-topography (accessed on 18 Feb., 2019)

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