difference between sleet and hail

Understanding the Difference between Sleet and Hail

Icy precipitation is not an unusual sight during the winter months. But have you ever wondered what makes the hailstones different from sleet? While both sleet and hail are forms of precipitation, they are created in different ways and have distinct characteristics. In this article, we will explore the significant differences between the two.

What is Sleet?

Sleet is a type of winter precipitation that occurs when snowflakes partially melt during their descent and freeze again before touching the ground. This melted and refrozen precipitation can come in the form of small pellets of ice or ice crystals that are similar to snowflakes. Due to the freezing temperatures, sleet pellets or ice crystals bounce off the ground and roof surfaces, making a rattling sound.

While sleet may look similar to hail, it is much smaller in size and usually falls in a short burst. Sleet is also less dangerous than hail because it does not pose a risk of physical harm to people or structures.

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What is Hail?

Hail is a type of precipitation that forms in thunderstorms. Unlike sleet, hailstones grow as they move up and down in the atmosphere, receiving multiple layers of ice as they collide with droplets of supercooled water. When the hailstones become too heavy for the updrafts to sustain, they fall down to the ground.

Hailstones can range in size from small pebbles to large grapefruits, and they can cause significant damage to crops, buildings, and vehicles. Strong updrafts in thunderstorms can create hailstones with sharp edges, making them particularly dangerous.

The Bottom Line

Sleet and hail may both be forms of winter precipitation, but they have distinct differences in terms of their formation, appearance, and danger. Sleet is formed when snowflakes melt and freeze again, resulting in small pellets or ice crystals. Hail, on the other hand, forms in thunderstorms and can range in size and cause significant damage to property and people. Understanding the differences between the two can help you prepare for inclement weather conditions and stay safe during the winter months.

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Table difference between sleet and hail

Difference between Sleet and Hail
Type Sleet is a frozen raindrop that falls to the ground, whereas Hail is a solid precipitation that forms during thunderstorms.
Size The size of sleet is smaller than the size of hail. Sleet is usually around 5mm in size, whereas Hail can range in size from 5mm to 150mm in diameter.
Formation Sleet forms when raindrops freeze before reaching the ground, while Hail forms when updrafts in thunderstorms carry raindrops high into the atmosphere where they freeze and fall back to earth.
Intensity Sleet is generally a steady light precipitation, while Hail can be very heavy and damaging to crops, property, and vehicles.
Frequency Sleet is more common in the winter in areas with temperatures near freezing, whereas Hail is more prevalent in areas near the equator where thunderstorms occur more frequently.