'Fake snow' conspiracy sweeps social media after Texas storm

The snow that's recently been dumped on Texas is fake, according to conspiracy theorists, accusing a range of people - including Joe Biden and Bill Gates - of being behind the state's recent wintry weather.

The false claims are spreading on social media sites including TikTok and Facebook, despite warnings they're untrue.

Winter Storm Uri left dozens dead and millions left without power as it swept across the United States, causing the most trouble in Texas, the state - which borders sunny Mexico - simply not used to massive snowstorms and icy temperatures.

In videos uploaded to social media, users attempt to prove the snow isn't real. 

"Grab some snow, enough to pack it into a ball," a young man in a green shirt and cap says in one clip. "Once you've got your snow, you need a lighter. I'm gonna try and melt the snow."

He holds the lighter under the small snowball he's made.

"It's not going to melt... watch what it does, it's crazy - it's just turning black. It's not even melting." 

In another clip, an angry woman curses Gates, the billionaire philanthropist who's become the target of a number of bizarre conspiracy theories in recent years.

"Thank you Bill Gates for trying to f***ing trick us that this is real snow," she says. "You'll see it's not melting and it's going to burn. Snow don't burn, snow f***ing melts. No water, no dropping, no nothing." 

While it might seem strange, all the videos are showing is that when exposed to high temperatures, snow can sublimate - turn directly from solid into gas, skipping the water stage. A 2018 study found snow can sublimate just as quickly as water evaporates. 

Every substance has what's known as a 'triple point', at which each of its typical states - solid, liquid and gas - can exist at the same time. For water, that's 0.01C.

"You've probably seen this at work, like when snow disappears even though the temperature hasn't warmed to a point when the snow would melt, for example," Caroline Delbert wrote for Popular Mechanics, debunking the videos.

Some of the snow might melt, but gets absorbed back into the rest of the ball. Ice drips when heated because it's solid, science blogger Phil Plait told Politifact, and there's nowhere for the water to go; while snow is less dense, so has room to reabsorb any water created. 

As for the black mark that appears, it's soot. 

"The formation of black on the snow when the lighter is held under it is due to the incomplete combustion and formation of soot when the lighter fuel is burning," Stetson University chemistry professor Tandy Grubbs told USA Today. 

Another strike against the conspiracy theorists is that 'fake snow' videos have been circulating on social media since at least 2014 - every time there's a big snowstorm in the US, more emerge.

But even if the snow is real, some still think there's a conspiracy. A popular post on Facebook claims Biden, who's been US President for little more than a month, altered the weather in an "attack on Texas" by altering jet streams in the troposphere and causing Winter Storm Uri. No evidence is given for how he could do this, of course, or why.