Courtney's Cloud Corner: Snowflakes | weatherology°
By: Meteorologist Courtney Steimann
Updated: Feb 25th 2019

Courtney's Cloud Corner: Snowflakes

Let's move away from clouds and discuss more about what comes from the clouds...precipitation! As temperatures fall and what used to be rain shower is now snow, several different snowflake will fill the sky. They vary from how saturated the atmosphere is and the temperature. To make perfect conditions for seeing these snowflakes, the temperature under the cloud must remain at freezing or below for them to make it to the ground. The ground does not have to be at freezing or below in order for the snowflake to fall. It will just melt as soon as it touches the ground. They come in a plethora of different shapes and appearance. To be exact, Andy Brunning in Compound Interest shows there are 8 different general categories, 39 different intermediate categories, and 121 elementary categories of shape of snowflakes. The most noticeable snowflakes can be distinguished between plates and column. Lets move into some common snowflakes that may appear in the sky.

  • Stellar Dendrites: the most common snowflake, as they look like they are in the shape of a star. Since they have space between the flake, they can hold much air between it and other dendrites, causing it to be more of a “fluffy”snowflake to play with.

  • Fernlike Stellar Dendrites: these appear much like the Stellar Dendrite but have more of a fern like appearance, with more of a featherly look. Dendrites usually form in temperatures around -15 Celsius.

  • Plates: They form in a hexagonal shape and can be created around the same temperature as Dendrites. The difference is they are form generally at a lower supersaturation.

  • Column/Needle: much like its name, this snowflake appears to be a thin and long needle shape. They can appear in temperatures around -5 Celsius.

Now that you know some common snowflake names, can you identify the snowflakes that are falling from the clouds?

A Stellar Dendrite landing on other snowflakes.
A Stellar Dendrite landing on other snowflakes.
Showing Dendrites, both Fernlike Stellar and Stell
Dendrites, both Fernlike Stellar and Stellar.
Needle or Column snowflakes falling from the cloud
Needle or Column snowflakes falling from the clouds.