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For the first time ever scientists have created three-dimensional (3D) numerical model of melting snowflakes in the atmosphere. The discovery has developed by Jussi Leinonen: a scientist of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The Snowflake helps scientists to better understand how the snow can melt, and provides them to identify the signature in radar signals of heavier, wetter snow: the kind that breaks power lines and tree limbs – and could be a step toward improving predictions of this hazard. This model produced key features of melting snowflakes that have been observed in nature. These liquid-water regions merge as they grow and eventually form a shell of liquid around an ice core, finally developing into a water drop. “I got interested in modeling melting snow because of the way it affects our observations with remote sensing instruments,” Leinonen said. A radar “profile” of the atmosphere from top to bottom shows a very bright, prominent layer at the altitude where falling snow and hail melt, much brighter than the layers above and below. “The reasons for this layer are still not particularly clear, and there has been a bit of debate in the community,” Leinonen explained. More ordinary models can provide the bright melt layer, but such model which is more detailed can help scientists better understand, especially how the type of melting snow and the radar wavelengths used to detect it relate to the brightness of the layer. Numerical model has recently appeared on the paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research; with the headline of “Snowflake melting simulation using smoothed particle hydrodynamics”. The reflection demonstrates a typical snowflake less than half an inch (one centimeter) long. The snowflake is comprised of unique ice crystals whose arms became entangled when they crashed into the air. The edges of the arms melt first because they are more exposed to heat from the surrounding air. Water first fills small cavities within the ice crystals, and then these overflow, let water pool into droplets.
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