Once Snow Melts It Can Never Be Snow Again

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By Steve MacLaughlin on November 28, 2012, 3:00pm Last modified: November 29, 2012, 10:00am

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Philosophically speaking, of course when snow melts it will one day be snow again thanks to our friend, the water cycle. But in any one storm, as snow is falling from the sky, if it melts, it can't turn back into snow before it hits the ground.

Snow is happening all around us. Even in the warm season, way up high in the sky, it may be snowing. And the process of creating snow can only happen in the sky. It's not that snow is ice...but ice crystals. And the process of "crystalization" is something very complicated going on in the clouds.

Most of the time, as snow falls from the sky here in Connecticut, it hits air above 32 degrees and melts on the way down into rain. In the cold season, if a column of air is 32 degrees or colder from the sky all the way down to the ground where we live, that snow never melts and it stays snow. If the snow falls from the sky and then hits air above 32 degrees it will melt into rain, but sometimes, down on the ground it might be below 32 degrees and in this case, since that snow cannot re-crystalize and turn back into snow, it can only turn into ice. In this case, if the air on the ground is deep enough, the rain turns into an ice pellet which we call sleet. If the cold air at the ground isn't as deep or as high into the sky, the rain does not get a chance to fully re-freeze until it hits something like a roof, the road, a telephone pole, a tree. This is called freezing rain and can be the most treacherous type of winter weather because it can literally make ice instantly.

Some people mix up sleet and hail. Sleet happens in the winter when that snow melts and then re-freezes. Hail happens during warm-weather severe storms. Water falling to the ground is shot back up into the sky because of a storm's strong updrafts and when it gets high enough it freezes into a ball of ice. If the storm is strong the updraft will be strong enough to take that hail and keep shooting it back up into the sky giving it more layers and making it bigger and bigger. That's why the most severe storms can have the biggest balls of hail.

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Steve MacLaughlin

Town: New Haven, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since January 2012.

Articles: 178

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