As a kid, whenever it would snow, I would always make snow angels or build a snowman in my backyard. In between doing those two things, I’d try to catch snowflakes with my tongue, how successful I was in doing so is a different story. Thinking of snowflakes reminds me of winter holidays like Christmas Eve and Christmas. In elementary school, crafting snowflakes symbolized the seasonal changes from fall to winter; it was something I looked forward to after Thanksgiving. After crafting our own version of a snowflake, every student’s snowflake turned out differently than the rest, just like in reality. Every snowflake has its own unique design and shape due to its path to the ground.

So, how are snowflakes formed? A supercooled water droplet freezes onto a dust particle in the sky forming into an ice crystal.  When the water freezes, its molecules are formed in a hexagonal pattern, hence why snowflakes have six branches. Throughout the ice crystal’s journey down to the ground, it comes across water where it attaches itself to the corners of the ice crystal, and as a result, freezing into branches (what we know snowflakes look like). So what makes all of the branches appear identical? The atmospheric conditions! Whatever condition the snowflake encounters happens the same on all sides, which leads the branches to form identically. Of course, the appearances of snowflakes vary amongst one another as they’ve all gone through different atmospheric conditions, temperature, and moisture levels. In temperatures like 9° F, branch tips begin to narrow down and in cooler temperatures like 6° F, branch tips widen. Constant weather changes repeat the same physical changes of a snowflake. Fun fact: in the 1930s there were only 21 classifications of snowflakes, in 2013 there were 121 classifications. Interesting huh? Who would’ve known that at least 100 snowflakes would form from just a tiny dust particle?

What are some of your favorite memories of snowflakes? Playing in the snow during your childhood? During arts & crafts? Let us know in the comments!

Jessica Calderon