Will there be snow or won’t there? Many people are faced with this question on winter vacation. For a number of years the answer to this question has more often been: It’s snowing—with the help of snow cannons. While artificial snow used to have a bad reputation among skiers, today modern systems produce technical snow that can barely be distinguished from its natural counterpart. The most common system is the fan snow cannon. All that you need is water and electricity—and below-freezing temperatures. Creating a snowflake requires a crystallization nucleus; for natural snow it’s a dust particle, whereas in the machine it’s a tiny ice globule, called a nuclide. In a mixture of water and pressurized air, 1. water drops are blown out of the nucleation nozzles 2. into the airstream of a fan and freeze into fine ice pellets at temperatures just under the freezing point. 3. They fly through an atomized spray of water and latch onto larger drops of water. 4. Increasing numbers of ice crystals come together in the fan’s vortex, form snowflakes and then float down to the ground. The blanket of snow is complete. 5. By adjusting the nozzles, you can make the type of snow that you want, whether wet snow or powder: everything is possible.
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