All You Need to Know About Frozen Precipitation

All You Need to Know About Frozen Precipitation

Sydney Gager, Editor

As I walked into school (late, again) I found myself wondering what was falling on my head. Sleet, hail, or frozen rain? And what’s the difference anyway? If you’ve ever found yourself confused on the topic, here’s all you need to know.

If it’s winter, then the precipitation probably isn’t hail. Hail is formed mostly summer, generally in thunderstorms. Basically strong winds carry raindrops to the upper, colder part of clouds where they freeze. They can rise and fall multiple times, but once they’re too heavy, they fall to the ground. Hailstones are much more dangerous than sleet as they are larger and heavier–from the size of a pea to the size of a baseball. Fun fact: if you cut open a piece of hail, the amount of rings it has shows how many times it was carried to the top of a storm cloud. 

Sleet occurs in winter storms. It starts as snow, falls through a warmer layer and melts slightly, then freezes into an ice pellet. These small ice pellets can be noisy (and can cause unsafe conditions) but they’re nearly as hazardous as their summertime cousins.

Freezing rain is just snow that melts as it hits warmer air. It then falls as rain, but will freeze again when it hits the ground. This makes freezing rain the most dangerous of the three as it creates lots of ice. 

The next time someone says “It was sleeting, or hailing, or whatever,” jump in with this knowledge. Just be careful not to correct them; no one likes facts thrown at them by a know-it-all.