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Abstract

Is snow cleaner in the city or in the country? This science fair project was performed to determine if snow found in urban areas contain more particles and contaminants. The experiment was done by collecting snow samples from various locations in the city as well as locations 5km, 10km, 15km and 20km out of the city.

Hypothesis

The amount of particles and contaminants in the samples of snow decreases when collected further away from the city.

Scientific Terms

Contaminants, toxins, heavy metals, viruses, bacteria, crystal, molecules

Background

Pollution in snow

Snow normally looks white and clean. However, it's surprising that snow may actually contain many   contaminants such as toxins, heavy metals, viruses and bacteria. Snow is contaminated when it is stepped on or when pollutants are splashed onto it.. Snow also collects dust and dirt carried by the wind. It also  collects contaminants in the atmosphere as it falls to the ground.

Snow has the interesting "ability" to remove pollutants in the air by forming itself around dust particles. The formation of snow occurs in water vapor that moves in clouds of cold air. The water vapor "adheres" to pollutants or dust particles in the cloud and then other water molecules also begin to attach themselves to it, until snow crystals are formed.Snow crystals continue to grow in size and remain in the air for a few hours before they fall to the ground. During this time, snow crystals continue to collect pollutants and particles in the air.  So, snow really isn't as clean as it looks.
 

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Complexity level:
5
Project cost ($):
30
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 2 days for experiment
Material availability:
Easily found
Safety concerns:

Basic safety requirements