LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – With all of the wintry weather that we’ve seen this week, you may have noticed that some of the snowflakes didn’t actually look like snowflakes. They were more like little beads or balls of snow, and that’s actually called graupel.
It’s one of the more fascinating things that we tend to see here in The Great Lakes, and it forms as a result of snow and water. It’s not all that often that we get to see it but when we do there is a fascinating process behind it.
It starts as a basic snowflake that’s up at the cloud level, but as it falls it runs into a layer of water that is right at freezing or slightly below it that hasn’t changed to ice. That means the instancethat hits that snowflake it’s going to collect and freeze on top of it in a process called riming.
What it does is it continues to collect these little itty-bitty beads of water as it tumbles down towards the ground, eventually creating more of a ball-like shape that looks kind of like sleet or hail but it isn’t either of them. When it hits the surface, it’s not going to be rock hard or solid. In fact, it’s actually going to be quite soft, similar to the consistency that you see with that Dippin’ Dots ice cream.
This isn’t the only thing we can see with our snow this week. There are plenty of different shapes that snow can have, and it all depends on the temperature out there.
If the temperature is between 25 and 32 degrees, we get snowflakes that look like thin plates. Cool things down a little more and it actually looks like little needles, but you don’t need to worry, it’s still made of little shards of ice, so it won’t hurt you when it falls. Then we keep cooling things down and we end up with hollow columns and further on we get the more classic shapes like the stellar plates and finally the dendrites when our temperatures are between three and ten degrees.
These are just a few of the different kinds of snowflakes and other wintry precipitation that we could see in the coming week.
So, the next time you see it snowing out there, maybe take a closer look. You might end up seeing something pretty neat!