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Getting flaky...

January 30, 2002

Getting flaky...



You've probably heard a million times that no two snowflakes are alike.

It's true.

How come?

Snowflakes are masses of tiny snow crystals that stick together as they bump into each other.

Snow crystals are formed when water freezes - its molecules stacking together in regular patterns - flat six-sided plates, in the shape of six-pointed stars or needle-like columns - depending on temperature and humidity.

There are six different types of snow crystals: needles, columns, plates, columns capped with plates, dendrites and stars.

Snowflakes vary in size, depending on how many crystals are clinging together.

The largest recorded snowflake measured 15-feet across in January 1887 in Fort Keough, Mont., says Doug Hill, WJLA-TV's chief meteorologist in Washington, D.C.

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If melted snow crystals or rain fall through a layer of cold air on the way to the ground, we get sleet.

To see some astounding microscopic photographs of actual snowflakes, go to Caltech's Snow Crystals Web site at www.its.caltech.edu.

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