snow line, altitude above which or latitude beyond which snow does not melt in summer (usually called the permanent snow line), or, in winter, the line to which snow extends at a given point in time. Factors affecting the location of the snow line are the quantity of snowfall, the steepness of the slope on which snow rests, the exposure of an area to the sun and prevailing winds, the type and velocity of the winds, and the presence or absence of large bodies of water. The level of the snow line is much lower in winter than in summer. It is also affected by distance from the equator, along which it is found at an altitude of c.3 mi (5 km); in polar regions it is at sea level.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.