ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Snowflakes aren’t just those pretty shapes you see falling from the sky, or what people tape to their windows in the winter. Complex processes alter snowflakes to form all different types of snow. Snow falling from light and fluffy to wet and heavy has a lot to do with the type of hydrometer.
Two things are true if it snows; It’s cold and there’s humidity. Once you add a storm system, like a nor’easter, some lake effect, or a cold front, you get snow. Now let’s talk about what those “snowflakes” look like. As temperatures drop, ice crystals form differently based on the physical processes occurring in the cloud.
The typical snowfall ratio is 10/1, and ten inches of snow will melt into one inch of rain. Heavy, wet snow means a low snow percentage, for example 1/5 or even 1/3. This snow is hard to shovel, sticks to everything, and is bad on the roads. Temperatures are often close to 32 degrees.
On the other hand, you have light and fluffy snow. 20/1 and sometimes 30/1. This holds a lot of air, is easy to scoop, impossible to make a snowball, and often comes with really cold air.
Dr. Ken Lebrecht, a professor of physics at Caltech, manipulated temperature and humidity in order to form and photograph these snowflakes. This shows the intricacies and magic that comes with each individual snowflake.
There are many other factors that contribute to the type of snowflake, such as different temperatures in different layers, upward motion, wind direction, lake effect, and more.