Snow blankets the landscape of many areas of the world during the winter months and out of curiousity one particular question is asked rather frequently, “Why is snow white?”
Answering that question is not simple as a lot of factors contribute to the human eye viewing snow as white in color. However, to keep it simple, I’ll start with a simple explanation and then proceeed to expand further upon it.
Snowflakes are comprised of a collection of hundreds of tiny, clear ice crystals that have stuck together. Light is necessary in order for us to see anything, but in the case of ice crystals, light reflecting off of them is a complicated process as light does not pass through ice easily and is not transparent like glass but rather, translucent. Also, since snow is made of so many ice crystals, there are many, many places for light to reflect off of. In short, most of the sun’s white light reflects back still as white light causing the human eye to identify white with the color of snow.
To provide you with a more detailed explanation, visible light from the sun contains an extensive series of light wavelengths that vary in amounts of energy and frequencies that they transmit which is known as the electromagnetic spectrum and is responsible for different colors to be distinguished by the human eye. Through the process of light inside ice crystals bouncing around off of its interior surface, some of the light ends up being reflected and the rest of it is absorbed. WIth there being millions of tiny ice crystals in one layer of snow, all of the absorbing, bounding, and reflecting of light waves within the ice crystals leads to neutrality and no preference to either side of the visual spectrum, resulting in white light and the human distinction that snow is white in color.
Light and vision are complicated processes that most of us take for granted as we simply see objects as certain colors and don’t always think of why certain objects are one color and others are another. However, many of us know that both water and ice are clear in color in their natural states and it’s hard to not wonder why snow is white as in reality, it is just another form of ice.
To summarize, snow is white, due to the somplicated way in which all of the ice crystals that it is comprised of reflect, absorb, and bounce around light rays. Snow is white because no particular color or side of the color spectrum is able to win out and dominate resulting in snow staying the same color of original light.