Debunking the ‘geo-engineered snow’ rumor floating around social media

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Rumors are floating around on social media that the recent snow that fell across the Southeast was “geo-engineered,” primarily because videos surfaced online that show the snow not melting when exposed to a lighter.

“There is some sort of geo-engineering going on across the nation, and around the world,” one person claims.

We received multiple e-mails and messages about the rumor. Our sister station WTVR went to work to debunk the theory and explain why the videos show the snow turning black and not melting.

WTVR Meteorologist Mike Stone explains in the video how the heat applied to the snowball is making the snow vaporize. The snow is disappearing and not melting. According to Stone, this is known as sublimation, and the US Geologic Survey defines it as “the conversion between the solid and the gaseous phases of matter, with no intermediate liquid stage.”

The black marks on the snow are caused by the butane in the lighter that is released when the flame is held close to the snow. If you dropped the snow in a saucepan, the snow would melt.

Read more: WTVR


  • Michele


    • Mr. Papageorgio

      Michelle, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. It seems like you ate, smoked, or drank something much worse that snow before you commented! Just goes to show that the geniuses that use social media too much are losing too many brain cells. I learned about sublimation in 6th grade. Come on people get an education.

    • marlong21

      Why would anybody make ice cream with snow that has been on the ground? That’s like making lemonade with Lake water.

  • JusMe Jeneen

    I did the test and the explanation makes since to me. Because it melted in my hand but the lighter would not melt it..(Y) thanks for “debunking” that for us..LOL!

  • Gus Green

    ok as long as i can remember snow ice , ice cream, ext. if you put it near flames it melts. tell me why all the rest of these things melt when put around fire and there was no plastic smell? please explain the plastic smell as well. it doesn’t take a scientist to know something is wrong. melt not burn.

  • Danielle Tuhy

    I used a butane lighter on my snow in Montana, and it just rapidly disappeared/sublimated (much faster than the videos I’ve seen of this weird snow), and stayed completely white. I saw a video where a guy tested an ice cube and it melted but turned black. We are on a well here, so I tested one of our ice cubes, and it melted but stayed completely clear. So that is not “normal” snow. Apparently in Montana we still have normal, pure snow (and ice) that does not scorch. The lighter has nothing to do with it. I have the exact same type of lighter as that girl in the video. So whatever scientist is saying it is due to the lighter is lying, though the sublimation aspect is accurate. Please now explain to me why if this is normal, healthy snow, my Montana snow (and ice) stays pure white and crystal clear when being treated in the same way?

  • michael

    Has anybody thought about the smog or air contamination in that area. Sublimation makes perfect sense. The butane part doesn’t. Maybe someone in NYC or similar area cold test it out to see if their snow does the same thing. As to the lady in Montana, your air is much cleaner then most of the country so your snow should be much more pure then the rest of the country’s. And lets be serious people in Atlanta are so shocked at the sight of snow and so scared of it that they’re trying to melt it away with lighters.

    • Danielle Tuhy

      Yes, my point wasn’t that’s it’s some government conspiracy, just that this article and the “scientist” they consulted is wrong. Seems like it could be similar to the idea of acid rain. But it’s a lie to say it’s scientifically proven to be due to the lighter. And that the snow that is turning black is probably pretty unhealthy.

    • Joseph Newingham

      Well i live in a small midwest town of 19,000 and we do not have smog yet our snow did the same thing. My nephew lives in Michigan and he tried to melt the snow same thing as mine and all the other videos. So kind of hard to debunk that.

      • Danielle Tuhy

        So perhaps it isn’t smog related? All I can say is our snow stays pure white and sublimates when a lighter is held to it. I don’t know why other people’s isn’t, but I can’t imagine it is very healthy. I had assumed our snow would do the same thing, but it just doesn’t. So it is related to something in the actual snow, not the lighter etc (and if you are in the Midwest and your brother is in Michigan, you are likely much closer to city centers than I am regardless of your lack of smog, plus we primarily get weather and wind down from Alaska and Canada, not from the US, so we don’t get pollution carried over from the cities and coasts, perhaps you do despite living in a rural area). What seems odd to me is that scientists are quoted as saying this is normal snow, it’s just doing this because you hold a lighter to it. I’m not typically into conspiracy theories, but I’ve gotten interested in this, and I’ve left comments on multiple sites, and no one has explained to me yet why my snow would stay pure while this other snow turns black and appears to scorch. These scientists aren’t arguing that the snow in these videos is fake, nor are they arguing that pollution is causing this… They are either completely ignoring the scorching and only discussing the sublimation issue, or they are blaming the lighters. Since my lighters don’t cause this issue in my snow, I can only conclude the “scientists” are lying. You would think that if it isn’t the lighters, these scientists should be familiar enough with chemical reactions to know this. Therefore it appears to be actual intentional misinformation, not ignorance. I find that very strange. Why not just blame pollution? I mean that makes sense to me.

  • Kimberly

    The odor is from the butane in the lighters that everyone is using… why it doesn’t melt… could be because the tight compaction of the snow… want to test yourself… take a piece of ice from your freezer and use a bic and see what happens. The smell is not plastic… its the smell of butane.

  • batyah

    I would buy this ACCEPT my friend in Ohio did the exact experiment I did and the stuff here didn’t melt, smelled like burned plastic, and turned black. Hers melted …

  • Dave

    We live in Indiana. Our snow is doing the same thing. Turns black with an awful smell. An ice cube from the freezer though stays clear and just melts. I put some in the microwave in a Styrofoam bowl and it took 15 seconds to melt. Chocolate melts in 5 seconds. This is very odd!

  • A Chemical Engineering Student


    ChemE student here, I’m just going to speculate here, and for those of you who don’t know, speculation is 90% of problem solving in the real world, that, with a thermodynamics explanation in layman terms, when the flame starts to burn the material it breaks the bonds of the chemical, such is observed by the chemical reaction taking place with the material and the elements in the air, that causes the smell and color change, for those who don’t know the ABC’s of chemistry a chemical reaction is denoted by visual change in color, change in physical properties, or the releasing of a gas (odor). Yet, when held in hand, or left to melt, the “snow” material’s internal energy increases, allowing for the snow to melt. Am I saying this is real? No I’m not. I am simply telling you what is possible, in the words of my Thermo Professor “If you ever come across anything you want to check if it is possible or bologna, use thermodynamics, it won’t tell you the smell is butane and problem solved… Polyethylene is the most common polymer used for plastic, you can find it in your water bottle, where? it is the water bottle. Polyethylene produces no smoke drips like a candle and smells like wax. Just as polystyrene is a common polymer, its anything that looks, feels, are acts like a Styrofoam, it burns yellow and the material drips as well producing a sooty smoke. Now this, from what I can see turns black has a “plastic smell” and has no flame- sounds like Polyvinylidene Flourde to me, but that has a acrid odor, which is a sharp pungent bitter smell. Now if it does produce a flame then it could be Polyvinyl Chloride, but it would make a black medium smoke. I say this because both materials’ flames self extinguish. Now, the material is obviously isn’t just the polymer I presented but some derivative of it with more sugar and spice added to make it more fake. Nevertheless, I can guarantee that a material that doesn’t melt but burns when heated with flame, yet melts with a gradual increase of internal energy is some sort of polymer.

    Thanks for reading your daily does of stupidity killer,
    A Chemical Engineering student

    • Mr. Papageorgio

      ChemE student

      I seriously doubt anyone on this comment board is smart enough or can read well enough to understand what you said. By the way I agree with your explanation.

      As for the stupidity killer thing, make sure you can spell the word “dose” before you make reference to anyone being stupid.

      • A Chemical Engineering Student

        Well, being that I’m an engineer and not a English major, I do believe that I will be the one ordering the Big Mac and fries from the English major at McDonald’s and not the other way around. Besides, English is my third language. But, thank you for pointing out the reason for the attrition of interest in my comment. For as I can see when I scrolled down to reply, obviously no one bothers to read posts that actually explain anything.

    • Erockny24

      So did I, Just tried it and same effect. The snowball turning black and the smell of burning plastic. No water dripping either.

  • Johnny

    Why is everyone hell bent on using a flame to melt the snow knowing that it causes sublimation? Just put it in a kettle and heat it on a stove top and it will melt!!

  • james

    its not just lighters!!! ANY flame will cause the same effect on this snow, but not in all states smh!!! ex. in wisconsin, their snow melts perfectly fine when exposed to ANY type of flame, im in ohio and i just tried some snow off of my front porch where it hasnt been in contact with anything and it turns black and doesnt melt off of a direct flame.

  • Erockny24

    Out of all my years living on this planet ( close to 40 ) I have never ever heard anything about this before this winter. I first heard about it last night. I did not believe it until I tried it. Then tried it a few more times with a lighter and matches. Fresh snow outside, and tried the difference with an ice cube from the freezer. The snow turned black and smelled of burning plastic like material. The ice cube just melted without turning any color. This is snow just outside Milwaukee,W.I.. And I am hearing about this all over the country that has snow. Does anybody remember this happening years before this winter?? I never have!!

  • Hasim

    People have to wake up amd pay attention to what is going on in the world.Right before this so called snow fell chemtrails completely covered the sky.Funny next day we have plastic particles falling from the sky. Before realizing I let my daughter go out and play but when she came back in her snow suit reaked of burnt plastic. The smell is very strong not normal at all. Pay attention to the sky’s for the next few days and you will see since they are calling for another storm.

  • TKL

    Please….please, folks….just….learn basic chemistry. Snow vaporizes when put up to an open flame. It doesn’t melt. If you say you put it in a saucepan and it just turned black, you’re a liar trying to get attention.

    You’re making the claim. Back it up with evidence, not posts with absolutely no basis in fact. The original video maker was foolish when she posted it without knowing how real snow behaves. That’s called not being educated or not taking the time to check your facts. You’d make great Fox News reporters.

  • that guy

    Here in nc, we had sleet/ice storm before the snow. Same thing still happened though. Surely the ice would have melted and started to become a puddle but nope.. it was very heat resistant. This is not ok.

  • You People Are Idiots

    Everything is accurate about what the scientist said… You conspiracy theorists are idiots. Take a piece of glass and hold a lit lighter under it for a few moments, a black film will be produced from this. The lighter is creating the “burnt” looking snow, as well as possibly the smell. The smell may also be caused by the snow being outside and being contaminated by vehicle exhaust amongst other things. The reason it doesn’t melt is due to sublimation. The other people saying they’ve put it into frying pans and it didn’t melt etc. They are the liars. Stop freaking out, it’s all explainable, go back to school and learn something.

  • jjm7474

    Use some brains people. The skies are filled with contaminants and chemicals. They are like above ground sewers. The Earth was designed very well. Rain carries contaminants down from the sky and back to the ground. The water becomes purified in the ground, where it is picked up from wells meant for using. Unfiltered rainwater should not be used. Snow brings these same contaminants down as well. So the last thing you want to do is eat it.

  • Not a sheep

    Has anyone considered this MSM outlet is simply “reporting” a story that was handed to them? Simply a cover up.

  • Jeremy

    So why do the ice(solid) when put over fire drip but the snow(solid) does not??? WHAT’S THE THEORY ON THAT

Comments are closed.

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