CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Why is it that some snowflakes seem to be big, fat and wet, while others appear small and feathery? The appearance of a snowflake is a reflection of its journey to the surface.

It tells a story of its path as it descended, its reaction to varying temperature layers and their water content and its own collision with other snowflakes.

Soggy flakes are large and moist. They can measure up to an inch in diameter once they reach the surface. These flakes are actually clusters of snowflakes which have passed through low, moist layers of air.

Dry snow or small, powdery flakes have a history of falling through very dry, very cold air layers.

Individual snowflakes are intricately formed hexagonal crystals. The hexagonal shape can be traced back to the water molecule, which consists of one atom of oxygen and two atoms of hydrogen.

Read or Share this story: