Have you ever tried to create a snowman and find the snow too thin to make a decent snow figure? Well, that’s proof enough that not all snow is the same. Snow types differ from where you live, types of snow crystals, the thickness, and even the temperature when the snow fell. Additionally, different types of snow determine whether snow clearing will be easy or hard. And, more importantly, the type of snow blower you use.
What are the different types of snow you encounter when snow blowing?
Snow forms when cold winter conditions cause precipitation from the clouds to freeze. There are five types of snow based on the size and appearance of crystals. These are snow crystals, snowflakes, polycrystals, graupels, and hoarfrost.
When water droplets fall from the sky, they come across colder conditions in the lower atmosphere. They freeze around floating particles such as pollen grains and dust. The resultant structure looks like a microscopic crystal. More precipitation freezes on the crystal, forming a bigger hexagonal shape.
Snow crystals vary in size. The temperature and time taken to form the crystal determine the size of the crystal. The average crystal is half an inch.
When several crystals clump together, they form a snowflake. One snowflake can contain about one hundred crystals. Snowflakes assume different shapes depending on the temperature and humidity of the air. The number of crystals in one snowflake also shapes the snowflake.
As you snow blow surfaces around the house, you may encounter any of the following shapes: column, rime, plate and needle snowflakes.
Hoarfrost snow looks like white powder forming patterns on surfaces. It falls on electric poles, wires, trees, among other small items. It forms when the water vapor fails to condense into a liquid and turns into a solid directly. The direct condensation is due to extreme cold temperatures on surfaces.
This kind of snow is also referred to as snow pellets. They assume a circular shape and are larger than snowflakes and hoarfrost. Graupels are mistaken for hail, and most people call them small hail.
Graupels form when pre-frozen ice crystals navigate humid air and collect water droplets. The water droplets freeze around the crystals to form a bigger mass of ice.
Now that we have highlighted the different types of snow crystals that form the layers of snow, it is time to dive into the different formations of snow. After the snow has fallen, the level of disturbance and the prevailing conditions determine how hard or easy it will be to snow blow it.
What are the different types of snow you encounter when snow blowing?
Once the snow hits the ground, it classified into different types depending on snow grain types, snow hardness, moisture content and thickness.
Powder snow is undisturbed snow. The snow is fresh and looks like a flat white bed. The moisture content and geographical area determine if your powder snow is dry and light or wet and heavy.
A single-stage snow blower works well in dry and light powder snow. It might be challenging to snow blow wet and heavy snow with a single-stage snow blower. Such snow contains high moisture content. It sticks together and forms big chunks; thus, a two-stage or three-stage snow blower is the most suitable.
When snowfall is heavy, a deep snow bank form, and after the sun comes out, the rise in temperature melts the upper layer. Winter sun is short-lived, and sooner or later, the cold temperatures return, refreezing the molten snow.
The upper part of the snow is compact and rigid. The lower part is soft and fragile. This kind of snow is referred to as crust snow. It can be pretty challenging to snow blow crust snow. To snow blow crust snow using a single-stage snow blower, use a shovel to break down the hard crusts into blow-able particles.
Two-stage and three-stage snow blowers are built with the capacity to break down the crust. The auger cuts through the crust and refines the snow in readiness for a throw.
Slush snow is partially wet snow that forms sloppy and heavy snow covering. It forms when the temperature rises and melts some of the ice particles. Slush snow sticks together due to the high water content. It clumps together to form chunks that clog the auger and chute.
Using a single-stage snow blower on slush is hard, but it is doable. Spray the auger and chute with an adequate amount of non-stick snow wax or cooking spray. The non-stick substance will make it hard for the slush to stick on the insides of your snow blower.
Propelling your snow blower through slush is challenging. Slush snow is wet and heavy. Self-propelling two-stage and three-stage snow blowers the most suitable for slushy snow.
For more efficient snow blower use and long lifespan, leave the snow blower to run for some time after clearing snow. The motor heats your snow blower, melting any trapped slush. Also, brush out any slush left in the snow blower. Trapped slush can freeze and damage your snow blower.
Packed snow is snow that has been compressed by human activities such as driving or walking on it. Strong winds can also cause snow packing. Packed snow is firm, heavy, and chunky. Most people find snow blowing such snow challenging. A single-stage may have a hard time clearing such snow. Use a shovel to breakdown it down to a fluffier look before coming with a snow thrower.
The best-suited snow blower for packed snow is the two-stage or the three-stage type. Both machines have augers designed to cut through the packed snow and reduce the big blocks to light particles.
Icy snow forms when the snow melts and refreezes. The new layer of frozen snow is more rigid and forms bigger chunks. Although it is hard to find pure ice around your driveway and sidewalks, you are likely to encounter a mixture of ice and fluffier snow.
Snow blowing ice is not a walk in the park. First, you may need to use a shovel to refine the big blocks of snow before going over with the snow blower. A single-stage snow blower has minimal use on this kind of snow. Before using it, use a shovel to reduce the chunk sizes to sizes that can fit through the chute.
The go-to snow blower when it comes to ice is the two-stage or three-stage snow blower. The bigger and heavier the snow blower, the easier it is to blow icy snow. To clear ice from your driveway or any other surface, pass your heavy snow blower on the ice. Let the auger break down, and then pass the smaller chunks to the chute for disposal.
Tips on how to clear wet snow using a snow blower
Let face it, snow blowing wet snow is challenging. Learning how to use your snow blower the right way will keep you safe from injuries. It will also help you to use the snow blower efficiently and prolong its lifespan.
Here are hacks to help you have a smooth snow blowing session on wet and heavy snow such as crust, slush, and ice.
Choose the right snow blower
Single-stage snow blowers are usually small and suited for light powdery snow. Avoid snow throwers if the snow in your driveway is crusty, slushy, or icy. Instead, choose a big and powerful two-stage or three-stage snow blower. The augers in these machines reduce the chunks from wet snow into smaller particles that can pass through the chute.
Manufacturers mark snow blowers suited for wet snow as “wet”. Check out the specifications to ensure your snow blower is the right one.
Prep your snow blower
Wet snow is hard to navigate. It is likely to stick to the inside parts of your snow blower and cause clogging. Prepare your snow blower for the work ahead by spraying anti-stick snow wax or cooking spray on the auger and chute. Additionally, oil your machine’s grease parts and add a stabilizer to the fresh fuel.
Don’t wait for the snow to build up
If your driveway snow is a crust, slush, or ice, clear it as soon as possible. Wet and heavy snow can be frustrating and tiring to snow blow if the snow banks are high. By clearing the snow when fresh, you reduce the chances of clogging the snow blower or burning out due to deep compact snow.
When snow blowing wet and heavy snow, move at a slow speed. Working fast can cause clogging as the auger bites more than it can pass to the impeller. By slowing down, you give the auger enough time to break down the snow, bite a chunk and pass it to the impeller for propulsion.
There are different types of snow based on the size and formation of crystals. Temperatures, moisture content, and human activities influence the appearance of snow after falling. Powdery snow is the most straightforward kind of snow to snow blow. Wet and packed snow is hard to navigate. It requires bigger and more powerful snow blower types.