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What is the difference between snow and ice?


In one way, there is no difference. Snowflakes are ice crystals that are formed in the beautiful and unique shapes that we are familiar with.

However, ice crystals in the shape of hexagonal plates or columns, ice needles, dendrites, etc. also form in (and compose) very cold cirrus clouds and are responsible for producing sun dogs, some halos around the Sun, and other atmospheric optical phenomena.

Ice crystals also form on grass, trees, and just about anything else as hoar frost on very cold mornings, as hail in thunderstorms, in winter they combine into small balls called graupel and fall to the ground, and they produce icing on airplanes in the wintertime.

David R. Cook

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