Types of Winter Precipitation - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Types of Winter Precipitation


TEXOMA -- Some of you may have seen the little white snow pellets on the ground this morning and are wonder what exactly they were.

Typically people never have trouble distinguishing snow from rain but what about all the other types of frozen precipitation such as graupel, sleet, freezing rain. Our area got its fair share of it all the past couple nights.

Precipitation fell across parts of Texoma over the weekend for some areas in the form of rain and other areas in the form of winter precipitation. There was no doubt some of the precipitation was frozen, but what exactly was it?

Most meteorologists refer to what some of Texoma saw Monday morning as graupel, however snow pellets can be another name.

Graupel forms when snow falls from the sky and encounters water droplets that freeze to the snow as it continues to fall. Thus a more pellet-like precipitation type is seen at the surface rather than just a snowflake.

The other precipitation type some of Texoma saw this past Saturday night was sleet. Sleet occurs when snow falls into a layer of air above freezing (sometimes encountering rain) then another layer of air below freezing before reaching the surface. This causes the snowflakes to melt partially then refreeze before hitting the ground.

To tell the difference between sleet versus graupel, graupel is more white in color and generally feels like snow when you crush it with your fingers as it falls apart. Sleet will look more and feel more like ice.

We even saw freezing rain too in parts of Texoma Saturday night. Freezing rain all has to do with the depth of below freezing air above the surface. If it is a shallow layer you see the rain freezing on contact to surfaces such as tree branches.

We see all types of precipitation here in Texoma, this past weekend is just one great example.

Now what makes winter weather forecasting so difficult is knowing the exact temperature from the surface all the way up into the atmosphere.   The smallest temperatures difference can make all the difference in the world on what type of winter precipitation you actually see at the surface.