We were finally able to get out and enjoy the outside this weekend after a week of snow and zero degree temperatures. One thing all of us noticed was piles of snow sitting in areas of various parking lots. Those piles of snow are still there even after four days of sun. How is that and how long will they stay? Let's look at the science.

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It's an unusual site to see snow in East Texas. It's rare that we see the amount of snow we received last week. Some areas reported as much as eight inches of the frozen white powder. Some areas saw more. That just doesn't happen here. As we started to thaw out, front loaders began moving some of the snow around to clear parking lots. That snow is now piled up and still there after a few days with sun and above freezing temperatures.

If you recall in 2015, a massive snow storm consumed the Northeast. There were still piles of snow in May of that year in the area. How could this be? With above freezing temperatures and the sun, it should melt, right? Not necessarily.

Michael Dietze is an associate professor at Boston University in their Earth and Environment department. He talked to boston.com about why those piles of snow hadn't melted yet. Snow is a good insulator that has air pockets scattered throughout. This makes the piled snow less sensitive to above freezing temperatures. It takes a lot of energy to change the snow into water, called latent heat of fusion.

This graph is a good example of that:


Another way to look at it, when you build a snowman, it can still stand even though the snow on the ground around it has already melted. It because it's packed tighter than the snow on the ground and will take more energy to get through the snowman to melt it. With all that snow packed into one area like we're seeing in East Texas parking lots, it will take a few more days to fully melt. If we get some rain, that will help as well. The rain can break down the snow, releasing the air pockets, making the snow less dense and easier to melt.

So even with East Texas thawed out, we'll still see some remnants of the snow for the next few days.

Snow Piles Around Town


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