New Class Explores the Science of Snow at Syracuse University

 New Class Explores the Science of Snow at Syracuse University

March 21, 2019

When Environmental Engineering Professor David Chandler had the opportunity to develop a new elective course, he wanted to find a way for students to make the most of Syracuse’s famous winters.

“Then I can bring the research into the classroom and have them do interesting and surprising experiments right here on campus just walking out the front door. You can learn so much in an outdoor environment,” said Chandler.

The new “Snow in the Natural and Built Environment” class gives students a chance to study the science and physics of snowfall.

“There’s a lot of different sciences that come together to create the processes that go on, there’s the physics of the thermodynamics of the cooling, the meteorology of what is going on in the upper atmosphere and then the applied engineering of what it happens once it hits the ground and what the effects are,” said SUNY ESF student Evan Genay.

Chandler was able to combine his professional experience as a hydrologist and personal experience as a skier to explain how different conditions and environmental factors can lead to different types of snow.

“Syracuse is a great place to have this course because we get all different kinds of snow. Yesterday we had that wild snow on the surface all those crystalline stars, like a wonderland and then within a couple of days there has been metamorphism within in the snow,” said Chandler. “It has changed quite a bit, the thermal profile and density of the snow has all changed since yesterday.”

“It’s interactive. We go outside almost every day and if there is snowfall we are definitely going outside,” said Tara Bradley ’19.

From snow core samples to the exact conditions for perfectly packed snowballs, the Syracuse University quad is their lab.

“It is fun and easy to learn when you going outside and this is the conditions that are best for a snowball or this is the conditions that are best for skiing and learn the science behind that,” said Bradley.

In the winter, there is no shortage of research material in Syracuse.

“This is the snow globe city here,” said Genay. “A hundred inches a year, plenty of it coming down.”