5 Most Common Types of Snow: Understanding Snow Classifications

Compared to frozen water that falls from the sky, snow is far more complex. What you see outside your window on a beautiful winter day can vary depending on the type of snow and the surrounding weather conditions. By delineating the five most prevalent varieties of snow crystals and dissecting the variations among snow-related meteorological phenomena, we shed light on the world of snow.

How Does the Snow Fall?

Precipitation in the form of ice crystals is called snow. It has to be 32°F or lower for it to snow. Since water cannot freeze at temperatures over 32°F, any precipitation that falls above this point turns into rain.

Does Snow Matter?

Snow, like rain, is essential to preserving a great deal of what makes our earth habitable.

In places with consistent cold temperatures, snow can exist all year round; however, in certain places, the snow and ice might last for years. Snowfall that falls in places that get snow only sometimes eventually melts or vanishes. Towards the conclusion of the season, snowmelt can assist thaw a layer of ground and supply water to plants that emerge in the spring.

Earth’s deeper implications can be found in old snow and frost. Ice sheets or ice caps are layers made of snow that has solidified into ice. Their strata include distinct atmospheric data that can be utilized to ascertain historical climatic information. It may also offer future-oriented insights. Even though these kinds of snowfall are uncommon in most places, big snowfall helps monitor the earth’s temperature, water cycle, and climate.

Crystals of Snow

As one might expect, snow crystals are considerably more than just what we usually refer to as “snowflakes.” Frozen water vapor is what most snow crystals are made of. Depending on the environment, these crystals take on diverse shapes and exhibit a range of characteristics.

If any snow clings to the ground at all, it will depend on the kind of snowfall and the surrounding weather. The slow melting and refreezing of snow over the winter can alter the topography. For instance, if it’s not too much, the first snowfall of the year will probably be quite powdery and melt in the first few days.

Heavy snowfall early in the winter can result in thick layers of ice and snow that take months to thaw. For winter sports, the snow is easily formed into balls, and sledding and skiing are made possible by the combination of packed snow and ice. If it weren’t for the intricate classification of snow crystals and the corresponding meteorological circumstances, none of those things would be feasible.

The various types of snow crystals and their formation’s details are listed below:


A snowflake is the most well-known type of snow crystal. Snowflakes are made of single crystals or polycrystals, which are clusters of crystals that fall from clouds directly. Most people recognize them as attractive crystals with six sides that are symmetrical. When an extremely cold, non-frozen water droplet comes into touch with pollen or dust, snowflakes are created. A initial ice crystal formed upon contact. On the journey to the ground, the other six protrusions on the main ice crystal are picked up. The most prevalent kind of ice crystal is this one.

Hoar Frost

Frost and snow form in different ways. Whereas frost forms nearer to solid surfaces or the ground, snow forms in the atmosphere. Most often, plant stems, poles, and other surfaces of a similar kind experience hoar frost. When an ice crystal comes into contact with a surface that is colder than its surroundings, it rapidly congregates and freezes. This is how it forms. It can occasionally resemble rose petals. In other instances, such as on the margin of a leaf, it merely appears as discrete crystals.

Rime Frost

It might be challenging to distinguish between rime and hoar frost based just on appearance. They can both have a similar crystal-forming structure and have a tendency to supercool instantly on comparable surfaces. Rime frost, on the other hand, originates from a liquid that freezes and cools down into a solid state. On the other hand, hoar frost transitions straight from a liquid to a solid state. We refer to this as deposition.


Graupel is a form of hail, however with a slightly peculiar texture due to its composition. It is a crumbly ice pellet that is in between a liquid and a frozen state. Graupel is created when a supercooled water droplet that is not frozen joins forces with a snow crystal. This creates a big crystal that can hold its shape even after it freezes entirely.

What Is the Distinction Between a Watch, Advisory, and Warning?

Three categories are used by weather systems to categorize the forecast weather severity: watches, advisories, and warnings. When looking for the weather prediction, these are the three terms you’ll come across the most frequently. Gaining a better understanding of these phrases can help you feel safer when bad weather is approaching.

When there is more than 50% chance that a weather event will occur, a watch is usually issued around 24 hours in advance. Winter storm watches indicate that there is a good chance of a winter storm developing and that people should be ready for severe weather at any time. If conditions change, watches might become advisory or warning statuses.

Advisories suggest that there could be a risk to life or property due to the impending conditions. A winter storm alert can only be issued if specific requirements for snow accumulation are met. In certain states, wind-driven freezing rain and snowfall may be sufficient to warrant a winter storm advisory.

Alerts are a sign of impending extreme weather, like blizzards or a lot of snow. They usually also indicate a high likelihood of harm or threats to people or property.

Snow-Related Weather Classifications

Here are the most typical categories of snow-related weather classifications you might come across, now that we know what to look for:

Snow Flurries

Light snow that typically doesn’t accumulate is called a flurry. Any amount that sticks to the ground won’t last long because it’s so airy. The structure and loosely packed crystals of this kind of snow give it a “powdery” appearance. The least severe type of precipitation is known as a snow flurrie. When the temperature drops below 32°F, they can occur at any time.

Snow Showers

Similar to rain showers, snow showers last for a while and, depending on the surrounding conditions and surface temperatures, may result in some accumulation on the ground. Snow showers may intensify into more hazardous weather conditions based on temperature, wind speed, and snowfall rate.

Snow Squalls

These are stronger snowfall episodes accompanied by strong wind gusts. They tend to cause more snow to accumulate than snow showers alone and can be dangerous. They typically don’t last long, though. When a squall is approaching while you’re driving, you should stop in a safe spot and wait it out. When there are periods of limited visibility, stay safe.

Blowing Snow

Blowing snow occurs when gusts of wind pick up falling snow. Another possible source is wind sweeping over snow on the ground. Blowing snow can reach a height of eight feet or more, which is high enough to impede movement and eyesight. Blowing snow can be hazardous since it can produce significant snow displacement and decrease visibility. On windy days, it can happen at any time, so be prepared for a sudden loss of visibility caused by blowing snow.


The most deadly kind of snow is a blizzard. They are accompanied by wind gusts over 35 miles per hour, which means a lot of snow blowing, and they significantly decrease visibility for at least three hours. Like hurricanes, blizzards can span several states and, in the worst case, persist for several days. Strong winds and snowfall can cause power disruptions, tree falls, and other potential safety risks. Don’t disregard an advisory or blizzard warning if one is issued for your area.In the event of a power outage, store supplies such additional canned goods, medication, and batteries.

Various Snow-Related Situations

The following three categories frequently arise during winter weather even if they don’t exactly fit under the category of “snow.”

Freezing Rain

Freezing rain, which is neither quite rain or snow, instantly turns into ice when it comes into touch with any surface that is at or below freezing temperature. When it gets to a freezing layer of air, the snowflake that was initially melting supercools. As a result, ice may form. We call periods of freezing rain “ice storms.”


When partially frozen water drops through a layer of warm air, sleet is created. Just before it hits the earth, it goes through another layer of frigid air. The result is a slushy material that eventually hits the ground after fully freezing. It is possible for sleet to build up, melt, and then turn into ice.


As everyone knows, ice is simply water that has solidified from liquid. It becomes very dangerous to drive on and very slick to walk on. “Black ice” is a term frequently used to describe wintertime driving conditions. Black ice is transparent, despite its name. It’s only a thin layer of ice that has accumulated on a pavement or road. Its common name comes from the fact that it is transparent and seems exactly like the black road it is situated upon. Black ice can give drivers the impression that they have traction when it’s present on the roads.