It's snow! It's hail! No-it's graupel! Otherwise known as "soft hail," graupel is the name of a type of frozen precipitation. Though the term is not often used, this type of precipitation is not at all uncommon. Graupel is basically snowflakes that are clumped together as they fall, and will fall apart if you touch it. Typically, the diameter for a single piece of graupel is 1 to 5 mm. Graupel is often mistaken for small hail, but hail is much different. Hail forms from tiny bits of ice that rumble around in thunderstorm clouds collecting more water before they fall.
That's Not Hail Or Sleet-That's Graupel
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Key Facts In This Video
Graupel is the result of snowflakes that continuously rime until you can no longer tell the original shape of the snowflake. 05:17
Hail forms in the middle of a thunderstorm. 05:49
In the U.S., the term "sleet" describes tiny ice pellets that fall from the sky. 06:35