How It Works

Why is ice clear and snow white?

Asked by: Jenna Kelly

Ice is transparent but not totally clear if it contains air bubbles or imperfections. Snowflakes are made of tiny ice crystals that join together in the air. They are not made of perfect blocks of ice, but have much more interesting shapes. Light ends up scattering in many directions as it meets the borders of those crystals and the air locked inside, making it look white. Even when they land there is a lot of air trapped, and that’s why fresh snow feels very soft when you walk over it.

José Monteiro