November 13, 2007 - 12:29 am - Posted by iDunzo
November 13, 1946: Artificial snow is produced for the first time in the clouds over Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts.
While not exactly a blizzard — in fact, no snow ever hit the ground — it was the harbinger of a new industry and was an overnight sensation.
Using pellets of dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide), Vincent Schaefer, a scientist working for General Electric, seeded the clouds from an altitude of 14,000 feet. He was carrying out the first field experiment resulting from lab work in which he had successfully created precipitation by placing dry ice in a chilled chamber.
Flying over Mt. Greylock (the highest point in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts), Schaefer dropped his pellets and produced a similar effect in the clouds, which resulted in snow that fell an estimated 3,000 feet before evaporating in the dry air.
Artificial snow, like so many other scientific innovations, was born out of wartime necessity. In this case, it began during World War II and experiments with the creation of artificial fog, meant to conceal ships at sea.
Schaefer, a research associate under Nobel Prize-winner Irving Langmuir, began examining the physics of cloud formation. This work led him to his postwar experiments with cloud seeding, and the ultimate development of artificial snow.
Despite protests that artificial snow shouldn’t be used because it messed with Mother Nature’s design, it only took a few years for ski resorts to begin looking for ways to create the fake stuff for use during bad snow years.
Nowadays, artificial snow is made using a variety of machines and seeding methods. In addition to the ski industry, artificial snow is also popular on movie sets and in places where snow doesn’t normally fall.