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Snowflake Shapes

List of Snowflake Shapes & Patterns

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It may be hard to find two snowflakes that look identical, but you can classify snow crystals according to their shapes. This is a list of different snowflake patterns.

Hexagonal Plates

This snowflake exhibits hexagonal plate crystal structure.
Wilson A. Bentley
Hexagonal plates are six-sides flat shapes. The plates may be simple hexagons or they may be patterned. Sometimes you can see a star pattern in the center of a hexagonal plate.

Stellar Plates

This is an example of a snowflake with a stellar plate shape.
Wilson A. Bentley
These shapes are more common than the simple hexagons. The term 'stellar' is applied to any snowflake shape that radiates outward, like a star. Stellar plates are hexagonal plates that have bumps or simple, unbranched arms.

Stellar Dendrites

When most people envision a snowflake, they think of a lacy stellar dendrite shape.
Wilson A. Bentley
Stellar dendrites are a common snowflake shape. These are the branching six-sided shapes most people associate with snowflakes.

Fernlike Stellar Dendrites

This snowflake exhibits a fernlike dendritic crystal shape.
Wilson A. Bentley
If the branches extending from a snowflake look feathery or like the fronds of a fern, then the snowflakes are categorized as fernlike stellar dendrites.

Needles

Needles are slender ice crystals that tend to form when the temperature is about -5 degrees Celsius.
USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center
Snow sometimes occurs as fine needles. The needles may be solid, hollow, or partially hollow. Snow crystals tend to form needle shapes when the temperature is around -5°C.

Columns

Some snowflakes have a columnar shape.
USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Station
Some snowflakes are six-sided columns. The columns may be short and squat or long and thin. Some columns may be capped. Sometimes (rarely) the columns are twisted. Twisted columns are also called Tsuzumi-shaped snow crystals.

Bullets

Column and bullet snowflakes can grow across a wide range of temperatures.
USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center
Column-shaped snowflakes sometimes taper at one end, forming a bullet shape. When the bullet-shaped crystals are joined together they can form icy rosettes.

Irregular Shapes

Most snowflakes exhibit irregular crystalline forms.
USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center
Most snowflakes are imperfect. They may have grown unevenly, broken, melted and refrozen, or had contact with other crystals.

Rimed Crystals

There is a snowflake somewhere under all this rime.
USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Station
Sometimes snow crystals come in contact with water vapor from clouds or warmer air. When the water freezes onto the original crystal it forms a coating that is known as rime. Sometimes rime appears as dots or spots on a snowflake. Sometimes rime completely covers the crystal. A crystal coated with rime is called graupel.

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