WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Last night, we had some unusual precip in northern Granville County. It looked and felt for all the world like little bitty (mostly 1/8 to 1/4 inch) snowballs falling from the sky. They had about the texture and crush resistance of a snowball, and did not seem to have an icy core (though it's hard to tell). I trust that there was not a snowball fight between sprites going on overhead, so what exactly was it?

Posted February 12, 2007

MIKE MOSS SAYS:      Lionel,    You've given a very good description of what would appear to be something called "graupel," which consists of snowflakes or snow crystals that have become sufficiently covered with rime ice during their formation or descent to become white, rounded pellets. Riming is a process in which tiny supercooled water droplets freeze on contact with a surface that is at or below the freezing point, retaining to some degree their spherical shapes and thus trapping air and resulting in a layer of whitish ice, often with a brittle or crumbly texture. Some other informal names for graupel include "snow pellets", "soft hail", "baby hail" and even "tapioca snow."
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