Why Does Snow Melt Around the Bases of Trees?

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I’m sure you’ve all noticed this if you’ve been in the woods in winter: as the season goes on (and on and on, if you live where I do), the first place snow starts to retreat a little is often around the bases of the trees. Why?

The answer is actually not all that exciting. A few plants, such as skunk cabbage, actually do generate their own heat early in the spring, but as far as I know that’s not the case for the sugar maples and other common trees here. The most likely explanation is just that the relatively dark color of the tree bark absorbs more heat and, as a result, melts the surrounding snow. Still, any sign of spring is cause for celebration at this point!

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10 thoughts on “Why Does Snow Melt Around the Bases of Trees?”

  1. I always wondered why snow melts around trees first. I just wasn’t sure where the heat was coming from. I think when I go out this weekend I’ll check and see if darker trees have less snow around them than lighter trees to test this theory,

  2. I don’t know if it can be entirely explained by albedo. here in alaska we have birch trees that are as white as snow, yet still we see this phenomenon. Here is link to photo I took last week.
    Trailside

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