A popular shorthand in fiction is to use snow as a direct indicator of how cold the weather is, and the amount of snow indicates the amount of refrigeration. The reasoning is that snow falls when the temperature is cold, so when the temperature is very cold there should be lots of snow. This is not how it works in real life. The short version is that snowfall (and other forms of precipitation for that matter) is based more so on humidity than anything else, and the colder it gets, the less likely you'll have humid weather: ergo, once it gets cold enough, you'll actually get no snow whatsoever. In fiction, though? When the temperature drops, get ready for a blizzard no matter what.
This trope usually appears in fictional works in one of two ways:
- An area with moderate or warm climate experiences a sharp drop in temperature, whereupon it gets hit with a sudden appearance of snow, such as a blizzard with gale-force winds. If the Big Bad uses his Weather-Control Machine to chill the planet, expect to see a snow-draped Miami complete with icicle-covered palm trees.
- Snowfall is used as a visual indicator of how cold something is. This typically happens for comedic effect, such as a Funny Animal opening a refrigerator door and getting blasted by a flurry of snow. If the temperature drops further, the amount of snow will increase accordingly. This is a case of Reality Is Unrealistic, as snow generally only occurs around the freezing point. It won't snow at all if it's bitterly cold out.
For more details on the scientific reasons involved, see the Useful Notes page.
- Nearly every occurrence of Batman villain Mr. Freeze ever. If he's generating sub-zero temperatures, expect lots of snow and ice to instantly appear, even if it's in the middle of the Atacama Desert or the vacuum of outer space.
- In DC's Final Night Crisis Crossover, (in which the Sun Eater does Exactly What It Says on the Tin) there was a lot of snow. Although the point was made that as it continued, the snow would eventually stop, because all the moisture would have already frozen out of the air.
- Storm from X-Men is sometimes shown to make it snow in the middle of the savannah in flashbacks. (At least it's not a desert.)
- Averted in The Incredibles; Frozone can't generate ice in a burning building because of the lack of humidity. In normal conditions, he's able to summon impressive amounts of ice from thin air, possibly because he lives in a coastal city and can also use some of the water in his body. This is another example of Reality Is Unrealistic: a major byproduct of most combustion is H2O; Frozone should not have a problem finding water in a burning building.
- Unless he absorbs water at an accelerated rate and uses his internal stores to make the ice. Can't breathe in the H2O-laden smoke, no matter how useful it might be to generate ice in a burning environment.
- The scene immediately after that has him drinking a (small) cup of water to produce ice again.
- Star Trek:
- The climate volatility of the Genesis planet in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is symbolized by snow falling on cacti. Shortly thereafter David and Saavik find a naked child shivering and howling in the snow.
- The novelization of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home averts this. While the probe's blotting out the sun causes snow in many cities, in St. Petersburg, it is too cold to snow.
- Subverted in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, when the Surfer's passage causes snow to fall on the Great Sphinx outside Giza, Egypt... without a corresponding drop in temperature.
- Played very straight in Frozen — when Elsa loses control of her powers in the middle of the summer, the countryside quickly turns cold and snow begins to fall.
- In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Sky Pirates!, which takes place in a Pocket Dimension that runs on Rule of Funny, when the Doctor's companions find themselves in a cabin on an ice planet, they periodically open the door, say "T'ain't a fit night out for man nor beast" and get hit by a flurry of snow. Eventually, they find the penguin with the bucket and make him stop.
- On General Hospital, Mikkos Cassadine used "carbonic snow" to instantly create a blizzard in Port Charles during the middle of a long hot summer.
- In a flashback on Heroes, Alice Shaw makes it snow in the desert as a test of her weather-manipulation powers.
- The Daily Show recently had a field day with people who tried to use this trope to "prove" that global warming wasn't real.
- To be fair, while snow in and of itself doesn't disprove global warming, the fact is that winters in the US have become progressively colder and snowier over the past two-decades, so pointing out that the presence of snow is inconsistent with global warming predictions has some merit, as long as one ignores the "global" part of global warming.
- In Beakman's World, every episode is begun, ended, and occasionally interrupted by a scene of two talking penguins watching the show from the South Pole. It is perpetually snowing during all of their scenes, which is particularly interesting because in one rapid-fire Q&A session, Beakman explicitly points out that the South Pole actually gets very little snow.
- Frazz: Invoked in this strip◊ with a Genius Bonus for climatologists.
To explain: Mrs. Olsen cites the heavy snowfall as proof that "global warming is a crock." Actually, because snowfall occurs due to humidity, excessive snowfall occurs when there's more humidity in the atmosphere, due to increased evaporation of the Earth's oceans and ice packs. Ergo, the heavy snowfall would be evidence for global warming, not against it.
- In Tesla: The Weather Man, Tesla's Snow ability controls the temperature. More snow = lower temperature.
- Microsoft Flight Simulator: When the surface temperature is below 0C, the ground texture is snow. Period. Regardless of what the weather's actually doing, little details like elevation, humidity, latitude, etc.
- Parodied by Dragon Ball Z Abridged in the "Lord Slug" special, as Goku sees it snowing... and immediately decides it must be Christmas. Despite it being July.
- The original Transformers: Generation 1 cartoon episode "Fire In the Sky" has the Decepticons tapping the Earth's geothermal energy and chilling the planet. The Autobots become suspicious when it begins snowing in July at their desert base.
- In the G.I. Joe miniseries "The Revenge of Cobra", the Joes attack Cobra's desert base to stop the villains from using their rebuilt Weather Dominator. Among Destro's weather attacks is an instant snowstorm.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "Take Me To Your Leader," Shredder and Krang use a Solar Siphon to drain the sun's energy and make the Earth cold. The turtles discover something's amiss when it starts snowing in July.
- In SpongeBob SquarePants, it always snows in Sandy's treedome during winter. This appears most prominently in "Survival of the Idiots", but it also pops up briefly in "Bubble Buddy".
- In Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spidey and Iceman first met during a Let's You and Him Fight situation. Iceman got Spider-Man's attention by causing a freak blizzard during the summer. Iceman wasn't seen actually throwing snow around to do it (as comic Iceman would likely have to. Making ice constructs and changing weather patterns aren't the same power; he isn't Storm.) but appeared to be just willing it to happen.
- An episode of Code Lyoko saw XANA try to bury France in an Endless Winter to get at the protagonists. It was already snowing, but it was there to drive home the point that the temperatures were dropping deep into the negatives; hell, Yumi almost dies of hypothermia in Ulrich's arms, only to be saved by a return to the past.
- Played with in the Zig & Sharko episode "Cold Snap". In it, the island and surrounding sea is suddenly covered in snow and ice, but it only snowed briefly to cover the area in snow and ice. Otherwise, the snow doesn't fall.