Eli5: Why does shovelling snow feel heavier when it’s wet? Isn’t the volume of water (snow) the same?


In Toronto last night there was a big storm and today the sun’s out melting everything; shovelling today’s wet snow feels much more difficult than yesterday

In: 0

Wet snow is wet because it’s more dense with water, there’s literally more water in it than it light fluffy snow.

It feels more difficult because it’s heavier denser snow

volume does not equal weight. a volume of gold weighs a little bit more than an equal volume of feathers.

When water turns to ice it expands (takes up more space) but doesn’t get any heavier since there isnt any matter being added to it. Therefore, it is less dense. Density is just a ratio of how much space something takes up versus how much it actually weighs. Something that takes up very little space but weighs a lot is considered more dense, whereas something light and spacious would be less dense.

If you’re talking about an equal volume (how much space it takes up) of two materials, whichever is denser will be heavier, so ice that has been melting or rained on will likely weigh more since it has more liquid matter per cubic inch than powdery fresh snow, for example.

There’s loads of empty air in dry snow. Wet snow it’s just heavy due to additional water.

Imagine a towel dry vs wet , same volume different weight

Snow is mostly air. Fresh snow is about 10 times more voluminous than water for the same mass, so 10 times lighter for the same volume. (This is mostly due to air, ice is slightly less dense than water, but by a relatively small percentage, not 10 times).

When snow partially melts or receives water, the water replaces some of the air and makes it denser. Snow will also get denser if you compact it, though not as much as if you had water because you won’t compact enough to remove most of the air.