The Winter Mix-er
February 24, 2011
Here's some FUN FACTS about winter weather!
So what is a "wintery mix"?
Meteorologists use this term to describe weather that is a mixture of freezing rain, ice pellets (more commonly known as sleet), and snow. It's when three types of winter weather are all happening at once due to the temperatures in the air. To me, wintery mix is code word for "Not fun to drive in!"
Okay, so what do those three things mean on their own?
Freezing rain or drizzle: Falling rain or drizzle that cools below 32°F, but does not turn to ice in the air. The water is "supercooled." When the drops hit anything they instantly turn into ice.
Ice Pellets (Sleet): Drops of rain or drizzle that freezes into ice as they fall. They are usually smaller than 0.30 inch in diameter. Official weather observations list sleet as "ice pellets." In some parts of the country "sleet" refers to a mixture of ice pellets and freezing rain.
Snow: Falling ice composed of crystals in complex hexagonal forms. Snow forms mainly when water vapor turns directly to ice without going through the liquid stage, a process called deposition.
In short: snow is formed directly from water vapor, sleet freezes as it falls and freezing rain freezes instantly when it hits. So when the temperatures are right around the freezing point, we often get a mixture of all three. Fun to look at, no fun to drive in!
To find out more about the wonders of the weather, check out these amazing books!