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This site, ‘Fake Snow’: Videos In Multiple States Show Strange Snow That Doesn’t Melt Normal, Burns, Smells of ‘Plastic’, shows several videos and images of people burning snow they collect from outside after recent snowfall. They claim that it chars and smells like plastic rather than melting like normal ice would. They cite this as evidence for some sort of weather manipulation conspiracy.

Is this (chemical phenomenon, not necessarily a conspiracy) really happening? And if it is, does it actually indicate anything unusual, or is it just people making assumptions?

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    In the second video on the page you're linking to "IS THIS SNOW?", isn't it quite obvious and easy to see that the allegedly missing melting water is soaked up by the remaining snow? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jan 31 '14 at 14:41
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    Its proof of Chemtrails and Monsanto poisoning our youth! I mean why look for the truth when you can just make baseless accusations like these? – Chad Jan 31 '14 at 14:46
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    Well, there is word of truth there. It's "I've never seen anything like this". Apparently for this people it's first experience with well frozen snow ;-) – vartec Jan 31 '14 at 14:47
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    @Vartec - It does have some amazing properties. One moment its a light and fluff solid the next it is drinkable water... it must be magic or something – Chad Jan 31 '14 at 14:48
  • Also, remember kids, don't eat the yellow snow ;-) – vartec Jan 31 '14 at 14:55
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I immediately thought soot from the yellow flames and dry snow. It is people, many of whom are unfamiliar with snow, misunderstanding what is happening.

There is a good description from Chris West at Metabunk where he sets out three points:

  • The snow is melting, but the very loose fluffy structure of the snow wicks away the water, turing dry snow into wet snow, and eventually turning the snow into slush.

  • The snow is blackened when a lighter is held underneath it because of the soot from the lighter. It's not burning.

  • The smell is likely fumes from the lighter and/or people briefly burning nearby objects like gloves.

He has a series of pictures demonstrating the first two of these, including showing how you can darken ice with a lighter flame, and how small pieces of snow melt to visible water if there is nowhere else for the water to go.

  • The plastic from the lighter does that. When I used to smoke I would notice the plastic taste if I lit a few people before I lit my own or held the flame for a few seconds before lighting my smoke – Chad Jan 31 '14 at 14:50
  • Isn't fake snow (that you buy at the store for decoration) made out of plastic? What would be the observation if one were to burn fake snow? – crush Jan 31 '14 at 18:38
  • @crush it's burn with a yellow low temperature flame, releasing a lot of thick black smoke. Think burning a plastic bottle... There'd likely also be particles of burning plastic caught in the updraft, spreading burning embers of plastic. – jwenting Feb 5 '14 at 13:11
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    Phil "Bad Astronomer" Plait debunked this with a link to a youtube video to demonstrate the points Henry brought up. slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/02/03/… - Since this is an outside link demonstrating what was pointed out, I didn't think it worth rehashing as an answer by itself. – Bart Silverstrim Feb 6 '14 at 15:09

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