With the start of autumn coming up on Sept. 22, the leaves are beginning to turn colors, exposing beautiful bright foliage for leaf peepers to enjoy over the next several weeks. Alan Middleton is professor and chair of physics and…
New Class Explores the Science of Snow at Syracuse University
When 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,” says Chandler, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
The new Snow in the Natural and Built Environment course 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 happens once it hits the ground and what the effects are,” says 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 with all those crystalline stars, like a wonderland. And then within a couple of days there has been metamorphism within the snow,” Chandler says. “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,” says Tara Bradley ’19.
From snow core samples to the exact conditions for perfectly packed snowballs, the University’s Shaw Quad is their lab.
“It is fun and easy to learn when you are going outside, and these are the conditions that are best for a snowball or these are the conditions that are best for skiing, and learn the science behind that,” says Bradley.
In the winter, there is no shortage of research material in Syracuse.
“This is the snow globe city here,” Genay says. “A hundred inches a year, plenty of it coming down.”