Hail, Ice Pellets, and Freezing Rain: What’s the Difference?
Many things can happen to precipitation as it moves through the layers of the atmosphere. Ice pellets sometimes fall with freezing rain.
Ice pellets occur when there is a layer of warmer air between two layers of cold air.
The precipitation begins as snow, melts, and then refreezes to a small ball of ice.
Hail’s formation is even more exciting. Hail forms when lumps of ice get blown upward through thunderclouds.
Eventually, these lumps get so large that they fall down to the earth.
Although hail and ice pellets can both cause damage, they tend to bounce off the ground and lie in piles, and do not make the slick layer of glaze ice that freezing rain creates.
Winter Weather Warnings
Ice pellets snow are expected to begin falling on Sunday afternoon, and this may change to freezing rain in the evening. The system should move through the region by Tuesday, but roads could be slick with ice, and Environment Canada has warned motorists to use caution. Winter weather can be dangerous, but is fascinating to watch from a science perspective.
CBC News. Freezing Rain Warning Issued in Ottawa-Gatineau. (2012). Accessed December 9, 2012.
NOAA. Hail. (2012). Accessed December 9th, 2012.
University of Illinois Department of Physics. Supercooled Water in the Freezer. (2012). Accessed December 9th, 2012.
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