Four Types of Snow You’ll See in Michigan This Winter
When snow covers the roads we drive on and piles up on our sidewalks, we're more concerned about getting it out of the way then to stop and stare at the splendor of a Michigan snowfall. But, when we do get to stop and watch it from inside our warm homes, it truly is a sight to see. Especially when there is more than one type of snow to enjoy in Michigan.
The Science of Snow
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, snow may fall as symmetrical, six-sided snowflakes, heavy wet snow, or as thin powdery snow. When precipitation gathers in clouds, the clouds keep gathering until the cloud is so heavy that it must let go of the precipitation. When that happens, there are different types of snow crystals that can be released and fall to the ground.
These are probably what you’re most familiar with. Snowflakes are single ice crystals or clusters of ice crystals that fall from a cloud.
Hoarfrost is usually composed of interlocking ice crystals and tends to form on objects of small diameter such as tree branches, wires, and plant stems.
Graupel form as ice crystals clump together and fall through a supercooled cloud with a coating of rime – the ice crystals on the outside. Graupel is sometimes mistaken for hail but tends to have a softer and more crumbly texture. Graupel is sometimes also called snow pellets.
Polycrystals are snowflakes except the snowflakes are a collection of many different ice crystals that have stuck together as opposed to water vapor condensing around one particle.