Freezing rain turns into hail

Hail and sleet: that's the difference

Sometimes hail falls from the sky, sometimes sleet. Both are frozen water, but there is a difference: hail is clear and hard, sleet is soft, white and has a rough surface. Sleet can even be squeezed, as it has a much lower density than hailstones. The reason for these differences is the different origin of the two types of precipitation.

Sleet are soft mini snowballs

Sleet forms when snow crystals meet water droplets in a cloud and these clump together. So it is more of a kind of mini snowball that arises when polar cold air flows into the higher layers of the air. Sleet showers typically occur in the winter months through to April.

Hail is hard grains of ice

Hail, on the other hand, forms in a powerful, high thundercloud with strong up and down winds. There raindrops in the cloud are catapulted upwards again and again with the updrafts at high speeds, like in a roller coaster. It's much colder there. The raindrops freeze quickly. From there it goes back down just as quickly. More water droplets can accumulate on the ice grain. If the updraft can no longer carry the hailstone, it falls to the ground.

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