Elizabeth Renter

As a winter storm blanketed the southern US residents with snow they aren’t accustomed to seeing, social media was similarly blanketed with claims of “fake snow” that won’t melt. Videos and heated discussions are making the rounds where people are attempting to melt snow gathered out of their backyards with lighters, and finding the snow won’t melt at all.

What is this “fake snow”? No one knows for certain, though many are chalking the strange non-melting substance to government conspiracies, chem trails and other nefarious possibilities.

Unfortunately, no one is getting it right. As is the case with this misinformation age, no one is doing their own research, rather simply exclaiming how tragic it is that we’re all being poisoned by fluffy white toxin-flakes or recreating the exact same experiment with the exact same results.

Had the ambitious kitchen scientists done their due diligence, they would learn about a process called “sublimation,” explained here in an elementary unit on the water cycle for children.

According to the US Geologic Survey, sublimation is, “the conversion between the solid and the gaseous phases of matter, with no intermediate liquid stage.” It’s used to describe the process of snow turning into vapor without first melting.

And if you don’t believe it coming from a US government source, how about a regular scientist? Steve Ackerman, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Wisconsin- Madison explains that what we would call “evaporation” from a liquid is called “sublimation from a solid.”

“Whenever there is an interface of air and water, either liquid or solid, you have molecules trying to leave the water,” Ackerman explains.

Sublimation is most common when the surrounding air is cold and dry. Humid conditions and warmer temperatures would cause the snow to melt first. The dramatic change in temperatures when snow or ice is touched with a lighter, for instance, immediately converts the solid into a vapor.

The snow isn’t melting because it is vaporizing. It’s changing forms in a scientific process. And as to the claims that trying to melt this snow results in an odd smell, you may want to look to the lighter fluid or the lighter itself-- which is likely far more toxic than even yellow snow.

While I am often the first to suspect nefarious government actions and am well-aware of the many toxins in our environment, we owe it to ourselves and other information-hungry consumers on the web to put out accurate information.

The bottom line is that if there were lighters hundreds of years ago and the curious kitchen scientists of olden days ran the very same experiment, they would have the very same results. Not because of pollution, chem trails, or intentional contamination but because of the properties of water—or in this case snow—when heated under certain conditions. True, snow may be dirtier now thanks to pollution, but it is snow and under the right conditions it will melt.