Winter Precipitation

When most people think of winter, they automatically think of snow. However, there are several kinds of precipitation that can occur during the winter. The type of precipitation that falls depends on the temperature of the atmosphere from the cloud to the surface. Slide the layer of warm air across the window to see how it can impact the type of winter precipitation that falls.

View Description

Most of the precipitation that forms during the winter starts out as snow because the top layer of the storm clouds are usually cold enough to create snowflakes.

The 4 different types of precipitation seen in winter weather are:

  • Snow: Snowflakes continue to fall and reach the earth’s surface when the temperature from the cloud base to the ground remains at or below 32°F (0°C).
  • Sleet: Sleet occurs when the snowflakes partially melt in a shallow pocket of warm air and refreezes before reaching the ground. These frozen raindrops reach the ground and can bounce on impact.
  • Freezing Rain: Freezing rain happens when the snowflakes completely melt in the warm air and the liquid drops fall through a thin layer of freezing air just above the surface. Since the surface of objects is below 32°F (0°C), the liquid freezes on contact with cold surfaces.
  • Rain: When the snowflakes/frozen precipitation melts and does not refreeze before reaching the ground - it becomes rain.