LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – With all the winter weather we’ve been seeing this week, you may have noticed that some snowflakes don’t really look like snowflakes. They were more like little beads or snowballs and it’s actually called graupel.

It’s one of the most spectacular things we usually see here in the Great Lakes, and it’s formed by snow and water. It’s not often that we see, but when we do, there’s a fascinating process behind it.

It starts out as a normal snowflake, which is at cloud level, but as it falls, it falls into a layer of water that is right at or slightly below freezing, which has not turned into ice. This means that the specimen that falls into that snowflake is going to collect and freeze on it in a process called riming.

What it does is it continues to collect these little tiny globules of water as they sink to the ground, eventually creating a more globular shape that looks like sleet or hail, but it’s neither. When it hits the surface, it won’t be hard or solid. In fact, it will be quite soft, similar to the consistency you see with Dippin’ Dots ice cream.

That’s not the only thing we could see with snow this week. There are many different forms that snow can take, and it all depends on the temperature outside.

At a temperature of 25 to 32 degrees, snowflakes look like thin plates. Cool things down a little more and they will indeed look like little needles, but don’t worry, they’re still made up of little ice shards so they won’t hurt you if they fall. Then we keep cooling things down and we end up with hollow columns and then we get more classical shapes like star plates and finally dendrites when our temperature is between three and ten degrees.

These are just a few of the different types of snowflakes and other winter precipitation we may see next week.

So, the next time you see it snowing, take a closer look. You might end up with something pretty neat!

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