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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.

A story is told of a couple in Nunavut who took a winter walking trip to their cabin. A storm came up suddenly and a whiteout trapped them in the open.

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
Links: Arctic, Cold Places
Arctic Maps & Weather Reports

Double-click any unlinked word DICTIONARY: Just "double-click" any unlinked word on this page for the definition from Merriam-Webster's Student Electronic Dictionary at Word Central.
Arctic Library ARCTIC LIBRARY & GLOSSARY: Check this section for an index of the rest of the things you really need to know about the Arctic.
All sorts of Arctic Maps ARCTIC MAPS & WEATHER REPORTS: Maps of the Northwest Passage, explorers' routes, iceberg sources, Nunavut, the Arctic by treeline, temperature...
Links to related sites. ARCTIC LINKS: Even more information! Links to sites related to the Arctic and "Iceberg: the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots".
A Guide to Arctic Sunrise and Sunset GUIDE TO ARCTIC SUNRISE & SUNSET: How much sunlight or darkness is there in the Arctic on each day of the year?

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