Reading Comprehension – During the frigid season….

Reading Comprehension – Passage

The passage below is accompanied by a set of six questions. Choose the best answer to each question.
CAT 2017 - Afternoon slot - Reading Comprehension - Passage - During the frigid season....
During the frigid season…it’s often necessary to nestle under a blanket to try to stay warm. The temperature difference between the blanket and the air outside is so palpable that we often have trouble leaving our warm refuge. Many plants and animals similarly hunker down, relying on snow cover for safety from winter’s harsh conditions. The small area between the snowpack and the ground, called the subnivium…might be the most important ecosystem that you have never heard of.

The subnivium is so well-insulated and stable that its temperature holds steady at around 32 degree Fahrenheit (0 degree Celsius). Although that might still sound cold, a constant temperature of 32 degree Fahrenheit can often be 30 to 40 degrees warmer than the air temperature during the peak of winter. Because of this large temperature difference, a wide variety of species…depend on the subnivium for winter protection.

For many organisms living in temperate and Arctic regions, the difference between being under the snow or outside it is a matter of life and death. Consequently, disruptions to the subnivium brought about by climate change will affect everything from population dynamics to nutrient cycling through the ecosystem.

The formation and stability of the subnivium requires more than a few flurries. Winter ecologists have suggested that eight inches of snow is necessary to develop a stable layer of insulation. Depth is not the only factor, however. More accurately, the stability of the subnivium depends on the interaction between snow depth and snow density. Imagine being under a stack of blankets that are all flattened and pressed together. When compressed, the blankets essentially form one compacted layer. In contrast, when they are lightly placed on top of one another, their insulative capacity increases because the air pockets between them trap heat. Greater depths of low-density snow are therefore better at insulating the ground.

Both depth and density of snow are sensitive to temperature. Scientists are now beginning to explore how climate change will affect the subnivium, as well as the species that depend on it. At first glance, warmer winters seem beneficial for species that have difficulty surviving subzero temperatures; however, as with most ecological phenomena, the consequences are not so straightforward. Research has shown that the snow season (the period when snow is more likely than rain) has become shorter since 1970. When rain falls on snow, it increases the density of the snow and reduces its insulative capacity. Therefore, even though winters are expected to become warmer overall from future climate change, the subnivium will tend to become colder and more variable with less protection from the above-ground temperatures.

The effects of a colder subnivium are complex…For example, shrubs such as crowberry and alpine azalea that grow along the forest floor tend to block the wind and so retain higher depths of snow around them. This captured snow helps to keep soils insulated and in turn increases plant decomposition and nutrient release. In field experiments, researchers removed a portion of the snow cover to investigate the importance of the subnivium’s insulation. They found that soil frost in the snow-free area resulted in damage to plant roots and sometimes even the death of the plant.


Q1) The purpose of this passage is to

A) introduce readers to a relatively unknown ecosystem: the subnivium
B) explain how the subnivium works to provide shelter and food to several species.
C) outline the effects of climate change on the subnivium.
D) draw an analogy between the effect of blankets on humans and of snow cover on species living in the subnivium.

Q2) All of the following statements are true EXCEPT

A) Snow depth and snow density both influence the stability of the subnivium.
B) Climate change has some positive effects on the subnivium.
C) The subnivium maintains a steady temperature that can be 30 to 40 degrees warmer than the winter air temperature.
D) Researchers have established the adverse effects of dwindling snow cover on the subnivium.

Q3) Based on this extract, the author would support which one of the following actions?

A) The use of snow machines in winter to ensure snow cover of at least eight inches.
B) Government action to curb climate change.
C) Adding nutrients to the soil in winter.
D) Planting more shrubs in areas of short snow season

Q4) In paragraph 6, the author provides the examples of crowberry and alpine azalea to demonstrate that

A) Despite frigid temperatures, several species survive in temperate and Arctic regions.
B) Due to frigid temperatures in the temperate and Arctic regions., plant species that survive tend to be shrubs rather than trees.
C) The crowberry and alpine azalea are abundant in temperate and Arctic regions.
D) The stability of the subnivium depends on several interrelated factors, including shrubs on the forest floor.

Q5) Which one of the following statements can be inferred from the passage?

A) In an ecosystem, altering any one element has a ripple effect on all others.
B) Climate change affects temperate and Artie regions more than equatorial or arid ones.
C) A compact layer of wool is warmer than a similarly compact layer of goose down.
D) The loss of the subnivium, while tragic, will affect only temperate and Artie regions.

Q6) In paragraph 1, the author uses blankets as a device to

A) evoke the bitter cold of winter in the minds of readers.
B) explain how blankets work to keep us warm.
C) draw an analogy between blankets and the snowpack.
D) alert readers to the fatal effects of excessive exposure to the cold.


Q1: Option (C)
Q2: Option (B)
Q3: Option (B)
Q4: Option (D)
Q5: Option (A)
Q6: Option (C)


Q1) CAT 2017 – Reading Comprehension
After reading the passage, it can be concluded that the purpose of the passage is to outline the effects of climate change on the subnivium. Option (C) is the right answer.

Q2) From CAT 2017 – Reading Comprehension, we can see that, as climate change occurs, subnivium will become colder and hence provide less protection from above – ground temperatures (Refer 2nd last paragraph). Climate change will not have a positive effect on subnivium. Option (B) is the correct answer.

Q3) From CAT 2017 – Reading Comprehension, we can see that, author will favor if govt takes action to curb climate change as it is affecting subnivium negatively which sometimes leads to the death of plants and nutrient release. Option (B) is the right answer.

Q4) From CAT 2017 – Reading Comprehension, we can see that, the shrubs block the wind and retain higher depths of snow around them which in turn, keeps the soil insulated. (Refer last paragraph) So, stability of subnivium depends on several interdependent factors. Option D is the right answer.

Q5) CAT 2017 – Reading Comprehension It can be seen from the paragraph that there are a lot of interrelated factors that if altered can cause impact on all others. Like climate change creates a very substantial impact on the subnivium. Option (A) is the right answer.

Q6) CAT 2017 – Reading Comprehension To demonstrate why low-density snow is better at insulating the ground. Option (C) is the right answer.

Download CAT 2017 Question Paper with answers and detailed solutions in PDF

CAT 2017 Questions from Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension – Set 1: Despite their fierce reputation. Vikings may not have always been the plunderers and pillagers popular culture imagines them to be.
Reading Comprehension – Set 2: Typewriters are the epitome of a technology that has been comprehensively rendered obsolete by the digital age.
Reading Comprehension – Set 3: The end of the age of the internal combustion engine is in sight. There are small signs everywhere: the shift to hybrid vehicles is already under way among manufacturers.
Reading Comprehension – Set 4: Creativity is at once our most precious resource and our most inexhaustible one.
Reading Comprehension – Set 5: Do sports mega events like the summer Olympic Games benefit the host city economically?
Reading Comprehension – Set 6: Scientists have long recognized the incredible diversity within a species.
Reading Comprehension – Set 7: This year alone, more than 8,600 stores could close, according to industry estimates, many of them the brand -name anchor outlets that real estate developers once stumbled over themselves to court.
Reading Comprehension – Set 8: I used a smartphone GPS to find my way through the cobblestoned maze of Geneva’s Old Town, in search of a handmade machine that changed the world more than any other invention.
Reading Comprehension – Set 9: Understanding where you are in the world is a basic survival skill, which is why we, like most species come hard-wired with specialized brain areas to create congnitive maps of our surroundings.

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