Ask Storm Team 11: How does snow melt when it’s in the teens and 20s?

Ask Storm Team 11

Tuesday’s Ask Storm Team 11 question comes from Pam Wilson. She asked: “How does some snow melt when it’s still below freezing?” 


The sun is the main reason why snow can melt even when the temperature is below freezing. Sunshine can warm the ground to above freezing even when on some of the coldest days.

Official temperature readings aren’t measured in direct sunlight. Darker objects like asphalt and roof tops can warm easier as well.

Sun angle is another main contributor of snowmelt. The higher the sun angle is, the more direct sunlight we get and the easier it is for temperatures to rise.  

With our snow last week, it came at a time when the sun angle is at its lowest. The sun angle is around 30 to 35 degrees from late December through mid January. 

Even in February, the sun angle is noticeably higher and thus it can warm the ground quicker and melt snow and ice quicker even if the temperature is below 32 degrees.

Have a question for Storm Team 11? Click here to submit!

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