What is the Difference between Sleet ,Snow and Hail?

Three common forms of precipitation are snow, sleet and hail. Snow, by definition is falling crystalline water ice…

Three common forms of precipitation are snow, sleet and hail. Snow, by definition is falling crystalline water ice from clouds. Granular ice particles are the active ingredients in snow and are usually much smaller in size and soft. Sleet, on the other hand, varies depending on where it is found. In Europe, sleet is basically partially snow on the earth’s surface. In the U.S. sleet is the term used for wet snow. Meteorologists, however, defines sleet as frozen rain drops. Hail is much simpler defined. It is irregular lumps of ice from thunderstorms.

What causes these forms of precipitation?

Hail is caused by the movement of strong up – draughts through freezing clouds. When they are just being formed they appear to be small granules of ice but as they continue to formulate they get bigger and heavier. Not long after gravity kicks in and they fall to the earth surface as hail. We normally experience hail during thunderstorms though it is possible to have a thunderstorm without hail. When this happens, it’s because the hailstones were able to survive the extremely cold conditions even though it did grow extensively. It would in turn begin to melt the surface of the earth. The formation of sleet is different than that of hail. When snowflakes melt within 1500 – 3000 meters range of the atmosphere, sleet is formed. This occurs there is compressed above – freezing layer under sub – freezing air. Snow is formed when extra tropical cyclone warm air comes in contact with cold air.


Snow can be broken down into various subcategories. Namely:

  1. Corn Snow – This form of snow normally occurs during spring.
  2. Crust Snow – This is when soft snow is covered by hardened crust.
  3. Powder Snow – This term refers to freshly fallen, light snow.
  4. Packed Powder Snow – Refers to compressed and flattened snow.
  5. Slush – This term refers to snow on the verge of melting.

Hail is broken down into five popular types:

  1. Snow Grains – small white grains precipitated in the atmosphere
  2. Snow Pallets – compressible and white pallets
  3. Ice Prisms
  4. Ice Pallets
  5. Large Hail

To date, there are no classifications of sleet.

Who or What is affected by these forms of precipitation?

The trees you have in your garden and landscapes are the most common victims of sleet and snow. Due to this, it is recommended to plant stronger trees. If you live in an area where snow is frequent, try to stay away from trees of brittle species. To prevent small and multi – leader trees from being broken up by snow it is advised that you wrap them up. Seeing that hail is much heavier than snow, it is a bit hardier to prevent than snow. Hail can damage your automobiles and houses. If you know you are living in an area prone to hail attacks then it is best to invest in a hail resistant roof such as metal. It is always very important to properly insure your house against such occurrences.

Similarities and Differences

  • With the exception of hail. These precipitations usually have no negative impact on human life.
  • You can use clearing snow  as a fitness activity (shovelling)
  • You can also associate snow with recreation as you can geo snowboarding or skiing.
  • Hail storms, on the other hand, is always viewed negatively as it brings nuisance or pose threat to nature and person’s belongings.
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