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the difference between snow, sleet, and freezing rain

21 Dec 2013

2013-12-21 12:30:29 -0600

I finally decided to school myself as to the difference types of winter madness.

As I understand it, basically:

Of these types of precipitation, freezing rain is the most dangerous. It is the most slick and can weigh down things like trees and power lines enough to snap them.

predicting freezing rain and sleet

I'm slightly familiar with soundings and SKEW-T plots so now I know to look for the layer of above-freezing temperatures in these plots as a way to indicate that there could be sleet or freezing rain.

What I'd like to know more about is how they forecast between the two. I do know from experience, that the forecast will often show a chance for both, which indicates there's uncertainty as to which type it will be (and of course, during a storm, it can often mix between the two anyhow).

But I'd be curious to see how the formula is calculated to determine if a snowflake will melt completely. I would presume it's a mixture of how long the above-freezing temperatures will last (i.e., how many layers of the atmosphere are above freezing) and just how far above freezing those temperatures will be.

It's nice to finally have some insight into these sorts of things, but my favorite type of winter precipitation is still none.