Snow in Science, Culture, and Climate

OMSI Museum Exhibit


Snow: It is the water we drink and the food we eat. Mountains collect and store snow during winter. Spring snowmelt brings that water to crops and people downstream. It feeds reservoirs that generate electricity. Even before snow melts, however, the white blanket it forms reflects up to 80% of the sunlight, providing an essential cooling radiator for planet Earth.

The changes that are taking place in snow, both its quality and quantity, have consequences. Delayed accumulation, earlier melt, and more frequent rain-on-snow events, are all altering the availability of snow as a human resource and climate moderator. With more than one-sixth of the world’s population (1.5 billion people) relying on the seasonal snowpack for water, those changes are already having a profound impact. In the Western U.S. alone, the economic value of snow is estimated to exceed $500 billion/year.

The Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in collaboration with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, are pleased to announce the opening of the first ever museum exhibit on snow. The opening is February 1, 2022 at OMSI in Portland. This exhibit provides interactive learning opportunities to explore snow and the vital role it plays in our global climate system and as a water resource. At the opening, snow scientists and agency personnel from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest will discuss the importance of snow, recent local trends in snow and climate, and the impact of those changes on our ecosystems and lives.

The snow exhibit (Tiny Crystals—Global Impact) will be at OMSI through April 10, 2022, and will then travel to regional museums including San Diego, CA; Buffalo, NY; Redding, CA; Cartersville, GA and perhaps a museum in your region. A virtual, on-line walk-through will be available at the week of February 01, along with additional snow-science learning activities and modules.

Virtual Walkthrough:

OMSI Museum Exhibit Photo Gallery

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Visit the OMSI Winter Worlds exhibition website to learn more.