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Whiteout occurs when the sky and snow are of a similar whiteness, making it difficult to distinguish a horizon. With no contrast between visible objects both near and far, the observer loses all sense of perspective and direction, and becomes disoriented.
All types of travel, especially the operation of aircraft, become extremely dangerous.
Whiteouts happen most frequently when there is uniform snow cover, and in the spring and fall, when the sun is near the horizon. However, sky cover is the most important factor in the development of whiteout conditions and the cloud forecasts are used to predict such conditions.
They finally had to stop. It was impossible to walk to safety - they would have ended up walking in circles - so the only thing to do was to huddle together to conserve body heat and energy.
During the two day ordeal in the harsh Arctic environment, the man's wife froze to death in his arms.
When the snow storm passed, he could see their cabin - it was only about 60 meters / 200 feet away! Such a tragic death reminds us of how dangerous whiteouts can be.
Some whiteout experiments:
Click pictures for more information and credits.
Library: Arctic, Snow
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ARCTIC LINKS: Even more information! Links to sites related to the Arctic and "Iceberg: the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots".
GUIDE TO ARCTIC SUNRISE & SUNSET: How much sunlight or darkness is there in the Arctic on each day of the year?