The Life Story of a Snowflake

For the majority of the population, it’s a love/hate relationship. Children enjoy playing it, and hope that enough it will close school for the day. Adults either hate having to shovel and drive in it or they enjoy playing in it, too. However you see it Mother Nature served us a healthy portion that dirty little S word; snow.

               For the majority of the population, it’s a love/hate relationship. Children enjoy playing it, and hope that enough it will close school for the day. Adults either hate having to shovel and drive in it or they enjoy playing in it, too. However you see it Mother Nature served us a healthy portion that dirty little S word; snow.

There is still plenty of the white stuff piled up around town as temperatures haven’t warm up enough to begin the melting process. The greatest snow reports came from an area north of North Platte and west of Broken Bow. Up to 20” was reported there! In the Tri-cites area, 7-10” was recorded and we picked up 10-13” in the Lincoln Metro area.  

How are snowflakes formed?

            Snowflakes are formed in clouds consisting of water vapor. Under the right conditions of humidity, temperature, and pressure, these water vapor droplets cling to either a piece of dust or dirt in the clouds. These droplets freeze and develop into hexagonal groupings. This is when the snowflake takes its initial shape and size. Depending on those variables, the flake will either end up as a dendritic crystal, six-sided plate/column, needle, or a combination of any of these.

 Why are all snowflakes six-sided?

            Honestly, a lot of it depends on where the snowflake process begins. Snowflakes that look like the typical six-sided dendrite shape and pile up as light, fluffy snow originate in the colder, high cirrus clouds. Snowflakes born in mid-level cumulus clouds turn out as either needles or flat six-sided shapes. In the warmer, lower status clouds, snowflakes usually grow slower and turn out as a variety of six-sided shapes that are smoother, and have a less branched look.

 

            Whether you’re a fan of the snow or not, take a closer look at the shape of the next snowflake that lands on you sleeve. It will give you an idea of its lifecycle. If you’re like me, you can’t wait to play in it (I’m still a kid at heart). So, strap on your boots, snowshoes, or cross-country skis because it won’t stick around for very long. The next thing you know it will be in the 90s and will be remembering these cool times.

 

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