Oh, boy, we’re diving into some serious nephology-type stuff right now, aren’t we? For the record, “nephology” simply refers to the scientific study of clouds. Yes, we had to look up what the study of clouds was classified as, but we digress. Anyway, this post isn’t going to dive too deep into nephology, but it is going to dive into something related to clouds.

That is, of course, how is there snow on Mount Everest? It seems like such a stupid question to ask, right? However, the reason it’s a popular question is that you can see photos of the mountain above the clouds. And snow originates from clouds. So, one can see where that question doesn’t become so stupid to ask.

How is there snow on Mount Everest?

Summit Day on Mt. Elbrus - Russia
Photo by Tom Cleary / Unsplash

A really good answer to this question was provided by a teacher in Naperville Central High School that was shared with the Chicago Tribune. Due to the fact that excessive (and we mean excessive) winds (over 100 miles per hour) can occur, they will pretty much obscure the mountain enough to prevent any photographs from being taken from time to time.

Additionally, different types of clouds will form at various altitudes. Due to this, clouds will still form above Mount Everest and due to the freezing temperatures that persist, the mountain will be snowy. Of course, it’s actually not as snowy as you’d think it would be, but more on that in a second.

How cold is the summit of the mountain?

The temperature of the peak of Mount Everest is never going to be above freezing. In fact, most of the time, it’s going to be well below freezing. In January, the average peak temperature is going to be -33 degrees Fahrenheit, and, in July, the average is going to be -2 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, the peak is going to literally be freezing at all times (just sometimes it’s colder than other times).

How much snow is on Mount Everest?

Okay, so now that the question of “how is there snow on Mount Everest” is more understood, let’s check out another very intriguing question. How much snow is actually on the mountain? Well, this chart here gives you a nice visual of what to expect with the snowfall of the mountain.

Not too many people would’ve probably guessed that the snowiest week would be the first week of July. For most of us, we’re chilling outside with shorts and t-shirts on in the first week of July. Yet, at Mount Everest, that week is when the most snow is typically going to fall. In fact, as the months continue at the beginning of the year, the snowfall tends to increase at Mount Everest.

Then again, professional colleagues have found that in recent years, less snow has accumulated during the summer monsoon. The region sees roughly 75 percent of its total snow accumulation during the said summer monsoon, but an increase in melting and rain has led to reduced snowfall during that time over the last few years.

Okay, so how come snow doesn’t keep building up at the peak of Mount Everest?

When you put two and two together, an interesting thought can come to your mind. The peak of Mount Everest will never experience above freezing temperatures and snow is going to fall on the mountain. So…how is it possible that snow doesn’t just keep building on top of the mountain forever?

It’s kind of crazy how this post started out by analyzing the question of how is there snow on Mount Everest, and now we’re talking about why the peak doesn’t have infinite snow. After all, it’s not as if there’s a secret hideout up there where a team of shovelers are working around the clock to ensure the peak is clear of snow.

So, what’s the actual answer then? After all, it needs to be above freezing for snow to melt and the peak will never see such temperatures. It comes down to two factors.

  1. The first, and the much less complicated one, is the fact that the peak will experience winds at hurricane-like speeds. Excessively high winds of this nature will blow snow off of the top of the mountain.
  2. A concept called sublimation is also a result of why snow doesn’t constantly build up on the top of Everest’s summit. Basically, sublimation turns frozen water into water vapor gas, and it does so while skipping the melting phase. It’s kind of the same concept as evaporation but that deals with liquid water. And what allows sublimation to work is the heat of the sun. Remember that Mount Everest is considered to be the tallest point on Earth. So, on a clear day, the sun is going to provide a lot of energy and is going to be very strong for the process to work.

Yep, those are the two primary reasons, ladies and gentlemen. We still think we like the idea of a secret team of all-stars on the top of Mount Everest who just live there full-time in their cabin shoveling the snow a little better.

Final thoughts

How is there snow on Mount Everest? In spite of the pictures that you’ve seen, snow still accumulates on the mountain because clouds are still above the peak. But said snow won’t stay up there forever, in spite of the below-freezing temperatures, due to excessive winds and sublimation.

So, if you decide to climb the mountain (which is a monstrous task in and of itself), don’t be surprised if you see some of that cold, white stuff on the mountain. We hope this was beneficial for you and we hope you learned a little bit from this post. Take care, everyone, and be careful if you’re nuts enough to ascend Mount Everest!