Usually when you think of what a snowflake looks like you think of the typical six pointed ice crystal like the snowflake emoji.
But, there are many different kinds of snowflakes, about 35 actually!
We’ll focus on the 4 main types:
Each one is formed depending on the temperature and humidity where the snowflake is born; about 10,000-15,000 feet up into the atmosphere in the clouds.
When temperatures are warmer and closer to freezing where the snowflake forms, it will take on a needle shape. They’re very slender and will look like little hairs on your coat. They pack together easily because of how warm the temperature which is why they take shape they do.
Then, when the temperatures get a little colder closer to 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity, you have the classic snowflake shape, or a dendrite. Those will have the classic six sides with the branches coming off of them.
At about the same temperature or a little colder and lower humidity, plates form. These look like flat hexagons.
Dendrites and plates are the type of flakes we see the most often around Central New York, especially during lake effect snow events.
And, then when it gets even colder with medium humidity you’ll have columns. And there are many different shapes and variations of columns. These snowflakes are hard to accumulate.