Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Classification of Snow Flakes

Winter, Snowflake, Snow, Cold  Most of us were raised with the saying that every snow flake is unique and that no two are the same.  I was raised with that saying but I couldn't swear how true it was because I spent most of my first twenty odd years living in warm climates where it never snowed.

I finally learned more about snow when I moved to Alaska the first time and had to learn to drive on slippery roads, shove my car out from under a ton of snow, and learned never to park on the street because snow plows just piled the snow they moved off the street.

A snowflake starts as a speck of dust or pollen floating on a cloud.  As it falls, water begins to attach itself to the seed and freezes forming into a hexagonal shape. As it travels to the ground, more vapor condenses forming the arms until the traditional snowflake shape is formed.

According to an article I read on the internet will looking up mathematical information, I discovered that no two snow flakes are alike but they are similar enough to be classified as one of 35 shapes.  They can be column crystals or long thin crystals, plane crystals or the nice flat ones like in the picture, some are a combination of column and plane crystals while others are rimmed snow crystals.

The above are more general classifications but some of the shapes can be subdivided into more specific types such as needle type crystals or sector type crystals.  This link leads to an infographic on the 35 snowflake shapes. With the improvement of microscopes and crystallography techniques, scientists have been able to divide snow flakes into 121 categories.

The shape of the snowflake depends on the temperature and humidity of  the surrounding air.  The simpler shapes form with lower humidity while those formed at higher humidity are more complex.  As far as temperature goes, the higher temperatures result in the column shapes while the lower temperatures produce flakes that are flatter and more circular in shape.

It doesn't matter the shapes are always hexagonal whether a column or six armed shape.

Let me know what you think.  I love to hear from readers.  Have a great day. 

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