It’s the season of mixed precipitation. The spring temperature profile is conducive to an icy mix and the last few systems that rolled by didn’t disappoint.
I was walking to my office during one of those “events” when I overheard a co-worker comment on the freezing rain hitting the window.
I knew right away that we were getting ice pellets and not freezing rain.
Ice pellets are small, translucent balls of ice. They are smaller than hailstones, which fall from thunderstorms rather than during the winter or early spring.
Ice pellets form when the layer of cold air (below freezing) close to the ground extends upward far enough that raindrops that fall from the cloud freeze into little balls of ice before reaching the ground. Ice pellets often bounce when they hit the ground and make a higher-pitched "tap" sound when striking solid objects like jackets, windshields, and dried leaves.
Freezing rain, on the other hand, forms when the layer of cold air close to the ground is very shallow. The raindrops that fall from the cloud don’t have time to change to ice before they reach the ground. The droplets become super cooled – meaning they remain in a liquid state below 0 C. Those raindrops freeze when they come into contact with cold objects on or near the ground.
I’d like to say that we won’t get any more of either, but I’d be fibbing!
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.