Weather Word Wednesday: Graupel

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 3:47 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2022 at 3:55 PM CST
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QUAD CITIES, Iowa/Ill. (KWQC) - Graupel is often time confused with sleet or hail, but the formation of the precipitation is a little different.

If you were to look at the NOAA glossary, this is what you would find under the word graupel, “same as snow pellets or small hail.”

So we go to snow pellets for the scientific definition.

Graupel is precipitation, usually of brief duration, consisting of crisp, white, opaque ice particles, round or conical in shape and about 2 to 5 mm in diameter.

Think of graupel as nature’s Dippin’ Dots; the texture is similar to the sweet, frozen treat.

So how does graupel form?

Snow begins falling from the base of the cloud, then falls through a layer of air with supercooled water droplets, which are water drops that are 32° or colder, but not frozen.

Those supercooled droplets then freeze onto the snowflakes, resulting in tiny, white pellets that stay frozen as they hit the ground.

Unlike hail, they are soft and crushable. Graupel is most likely to occur in the spring and fall months.

Previous Weather Word Wednesday segments on Quad Cities Today at 11:






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