Monday, 11 March 2013

A fall of snail?

Snow pelletWinter has returned to the UK. Last week it was sunny, warm and spring-like, while today it is snowing. Or is it? I noticed that some of the 'snow' looked a lot more like hail. It was in the form of angular, compact balls of ice (a few millimeters across) which fell more vertically than the snow (see photo, right). The 'balls' bounced when they hit the ground, like hail but unlike more fluffy snow. I have seen hail looking very similar to this but never falling with snow.

So can hail and snow fall together, given the very different ways in which they are formed? And even more important, what would you even call it? Since 'haow' is pretty unpronounceable, what about 'snail'? Um ...

It turns out that solid ice chunks that accompany, or replace, ordinary snow are called sleet (see here)! Well, I thought sleet was a mixture of rain and snow but what do I know. However, the sleet referred to is also known as ice pellets (see here) which do not look quite the same as the stuff I photographed, particularly with regard to size.

It appears to me that what I have are snow pellets (see here), a special form of snow with an ice coating. I get the impression that they are fairly unusual in the UK. So I was right to get a little bit excited by my observation!

There are wider points here for anomaly researchers. Firstly, it is safe to assume that, if you come across something weird, the chances are very high that someone, somewhere has encountered it before and probably has a scientific explanation. Secondly, don't name something before checking whether it already has one! So, sadly, it didn't snail today after all!

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