K-State Research and Extension News
January 22, 2009
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Weather Wonders: Snow Blindness, Burn Are Hazards to Recognize

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Kansans generally don’t see enough snow on the ground to risk two common snow-related hazards. But, knowing how to recognize the problems can be helpful during trips to ski or snow country, said Mary Knapp, state climatologist of Kansas.

One affects the eyes and the other, the skin.

“Impaired vision or temporary blindness caused by sunlight reflected from snow surfaces is called snow blindness,” said Knapp, who directs the Kansas Weather Data Library, based with Kansas State University Research and Extension

The symptoms include a gritty feeling under the eyelids, excessive watering of the eyes, and double vision.

“Remembering to wear sunglasses or snow goggles can help prevent the problem,” she said. 

The other hazard is snow burn. It  is similar to sunburn in that it’s a temporary inflammation of the skin surface. But, its cause is light reflected from snow, rather than direct sunlight, Knapp said.

“Keeping skin covered, when possible, and applying sun block can reduce the risk,” she said.

More information about Kansas weather is available on the Kansas Weather Data Library Web site: http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/wdl. Audio reports of “Weather Wonders” are available on the Kansas Radio Network http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/radio/ (click on “Weather Wonders” and scroll).


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Mary Lou Peter
K-State Research & Extension News

Mary Knapp is at 785-532-7019.