Underneath an image of a snowy street, text read:
Fresh snow absorbs sound, lowering ambient noise over a landscape because the trapped air between snowflakes attenuates vibration. That’s why it gets so quiet when it snows.
The “Weird Facts” page didn’t include any information about the claims in the meme, nor any text alongside their post (which was shared more than 18,000 times in 24 hours.)
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the claim is true. However, the specification of “fresh” snow is key, as not all snowy conditions are sound dampening:
The characteristics and age of snow can affect how sound waves travel, dampening them in some cases, or enhancing them in others. For instance, people often notice how sound changes after a fresh snowfall. When the ground has a thick layer of fresh, fluffy snow, sound waves are readily absorbed at the snow surface, dampening sound. However, time and weather conditions may change the snow surface. If the surface melts and refreezes, the snow becomes smooth and hard. Then the surface will help reflect sound waves. Sounds may seem clearer and travel farther under these circumstances.
A July 2019 Accuweather item about snow and sound also explained that light, fluffy, fresh snow can cause a quieting effect when it falls:
When light, fluffy snow accumulates on the ground, it acts as a sound absorber, dampening sound waves much like commercial sound absorbing products … However, as the structure of snow changes, the amount of noise in the surrounding environment could increase.
Michigan State University’s MSU Extension delved into the structural science of snow’s effect on ambient noise. As the other two pages indicated, fresh snow’s dampening of sound ends when the snow melts and refreezes:
What you probably noticed during or after a fresh snowfall is how quiet the world seems. Why does this happen? It’s because of the physical properties of snowflakes … Unlike rain, snowflakes have open space in their six-sided crystalline structure. This open space acts as a sound buffer, helping to reduce noise. Sound travels in waves and needs to vibrate the molecules in the solids, liquids or gasses to be transmitted. Sounds also travel faster in warmer conditions, so air temperature helps to slow down or speed up the waves, changing what is heard. If there are objects in the way, sound can be dampened, reducing what is heard. Snowflakes do just that! As snow begins to melt and change shape, sounds change yet again.
When snow melts, the space in between each crystal is reduced as well as the buffering property, and the silence of a fresh snow goes away. In fact, as snow turns into ice, it can actually make sounds louder because it will reflect sound waves instead of absorbing them.
As the meme claimed, fresh snow absorbs sound, an effect attributable to snow’s structural properties as it falls and sticks. However, snow that has softened and frozen further loses that dampening effect, and it can actually amplify ambient noise due to a change in its composition.