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How Do Sleet and Hail Differ?

Sleet and Hail. How Do They Differ?

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People often confuse sleet with hail, but they’re actually quite different. For starters they are each created under specific conditions that differ from one and another. Although both sleet and hail involve initial rain and clouds, they each demand unique characteristics to form.

What differs most about sleet and hail is when they happen. Normally sleet occurs in the winter months, whereas hail occurs in the summer months. It is much more common to find hail when it is warm outside and when there is unexpected thunderstorms.

How hail is created is quite complex. The raindrops from a cloud are sent upwards into the top of the cloud where the thunder begins. Because of the extremely cold temperature in the thunderheads, the raindrops solidify and become heavy. At this point the pieces of ice fall to the ground as hail. However more often than not, the frozen raindrops stores up more water as it goes through the clouds and is sent upwards again before falling to the earth. This can occur many times and can create various sizes of hail.

Sleet ice on the other hand is not created in the clouds and is not pushed upwards. When the rain falls from the clouds it remains liquid because sleet clouds are warmer. Once the rain passes the clouds and enters a much colder space, the raindrops start to solidify and turn into ice because of the frigged air. This explains why sleet is more commonly formed in winter months. Contrary to hail, sleet does not stay frozen for long because the ground is generally warmer than the air. Typically sleet starts to melt on impact.

Freezing rain is another weather phenomenon similar to sleet and hail. Much like sleet, freezing rain generally occurs in the winter months. However freezing rain differs from sleet and hail as it does not fall from the sky as solidified raindrops or ice. Rather, the rain freezes when it hits the ground into sheets of ice. This is because of subzero ground temperatures.

In terms driving conditions, freezing rain is by far the most dangerous. When sheets of ice are created, the roads become deceptively slippery and unpredictable.

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