I'm Dave Thurlow for the Mount Washington Observatory, and this is The Weather Notebook. Today we take a careful look skyward and watch for falling ice.
Any time of year it's not out of the question that chunks of ice, big or small, can plummet to earth after forming out of thin air. We know these icy nuggets as sleet or ice pellets, and hail. The difference between hail and sleet is that hail falls in the summer, and sleet falls in the winter. So let's look at sleet, hail, and for good measure, throw in freezing rain. Remember hail falls in the summer, sleet falls in the winter, as does freezing rain. Freezing rain is rain that hits the ground as a liquid and freezes on contact, forming a coating of ice on anything and everything. This is called an ice storm and it's a mess.
All these forms of precipitation show a very topsy turvey temperature profile in the atmosphere. In the summer, hail shows how cold it is way up high compared to the ground temperature and it the winter sleet and freezing rain tell us it's warmer up in the clouds then near the ground. So, hail falls in the summer with much accompanying fanfare - thunder and lightning and tornadoes for example. Sleet falls in the winter and it bounces, where freezing rain splashes, freezes and makes everything sparkle, as soon as the sun breaks through the clouds.
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