Snowpocalypse 2016 brought cities in the eastern United States to a standstill, rendering streets impassable, knocking out power lines, and leaving residents to dig their way out of their homes. But while all that was pretty rough, once you finally got outside and walked around, the thick blanket of snow that had descended made the urban landscape seem, well, oddly serene and peacefully quiet - like a real-life version of a souvenir snow globe.
That calming effect from the snowfall, to a degree, is explained by acoustics. As University of Kentucky engineering professor David Herrin explained in an interview with public radio station WFPL: "Snow is a pretty good natural sound absorber."
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How good? On a scale between 0 and 1, snow scores about a 0.6, which means that it typically absorbs about 60 percent of the sound around it, Herrin said.
"Snow is porous, in some ways like a commercial sound absorbing foam," he explained. Snowflakes are quieter than raindrops, because they fall at a slower speed and have less of an impact when they fall, he said.
But snow's aural characteristics also can change, depending upon conditions, according to the National Snow and Ice Center. If the surface melts and refreezes, the snow becomes smooth and hard, and will reflect sound waves more readily. In that situation, sounds actually may seem clearer and travel over longer distances.
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You've probably also noticed those crunchy, creaky sounds when you're walking around. Those occur because a layer of snow is made up of tiny grains of ice, surrounded by air. When you step on the snow, it compresses the grains. That causes them to rub against each other.
Scientists haven't yet determined exactly what temperature causes snow to get crunchy, but generally, the colder the snow is, the louder the crunch, according to the center's website.