LINCOLN SQUARE — Been pelted today by white stuff?
It's not snow and it's not hail.
If it looks like Dippin' Dots when it lands on your scarf, it's probably graupel.
The Chicago office of the National Weather Service said Friday it had recieved reports of all kinds of precipitation: rain, snow, sleet and...graupel.
Also known as "soft hail," "small hail" or "snow pellets" — all of which are more descriptive and roll off the tongue better than the stuff's actual name — graupel is what happens when snow meets super-cooled water, which coats the flakes in ice.
Sleet, graupel's nearest doppelganger, are frozen raindrops.
According to no less an authority than meteorologist extraordinaire Tom Skilling, graupel "is common in spring and fall when the freezing level is close to the ground."
How can you tell graupel apart from other icy precipitation? Give it a pinch, and if it melts and falls apart on touch, that's graupel.
Here's a handy photo comparison (from left to right) of hail, graupel, sleet and snow courtesy of the National Severe Storms Laboratory.
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