Winter means cold days and cold nights. But, sometimes the temperature hovers right around freezing. If that happens, there’s a chance for not only rain and snow, but also sleet and freezing rain. It’s all complicated to forecast. Meteorologist Sabrina Bates answers the question, “how can we get both sleet and snow at the same time?“ on this week’s Science With Sabrina.
We know that precipitation is a form of water that falls from clouds. The temperature between the clouds and the ground is key to figure out what type of winter weather we get.
Let's break it down.
In winter, we get four main types of precipitation: rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow. Rain begins as liquid water and falls through warm air, so it stays as rain. Snow starts as a snowflake and falls through cold air, so it stays as snow. The tricky part is sleet and freezing rain.
It has to do with the freezing line. When the freezing line inches south, there's a mix of cold and warm air above us.
Here's another way to look at it. Freezing rain begins as a mix of rain and snow. As it falls, there's a big bubble of warm air that it runs into. This causes it all to melt. But, the temperature near the ground is cold. So, the rain freezes when it hits a cold surface. This could lead to an ice storm.
Sleet is similar. But, there's less warm air to melt it all. It begins as snow, melts quickly, and freezes again. This causes it to looks like small pieces of hail.
Sleet, freezing rain, and snow can, of course, cause the roads to be slick, especially on bridges and overpasses.
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