BY JULIA GRIFFIN writing for PBS News Hour
Peer through a magnifying glass at a snowflake, and you’ll see an ice creation more elaborate than anything Martha Stewart could cut from folded paper. So what’s behind the snowflake’s unique and elaborate shape?
The snowflakes that settle upon our sleeves and scarves during a snowstorm have more variations in shape than you might think. There’s the classic snowflake: a flat plate with branchlike, dendritic arms. Some look like hexagonal prisms; others like hollow pencil-shaped columns or tiny needles.
We tracked down two ice experts to help answer the question: Kenneth Libbrecht, a physics professor at the California Institute of Technology and avid snowflake photographer, and John Hallett, director of the Ice Physics Laboratory at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev.
Scientists use the term “snow crystal” more than snowflake. According to Libbrecht’s website, snowcrystals.com: “A snow crystal, as the name implies, is a single crystal of ice. A snowflake is a more general term; it can mean an individual snow crystal, or a few snow crystals stuck together, or large agglomerations of snow crystals that form ‘puff-balls’ that float down from the clouds.”
World-Wide Business Centres
575 Madison Avenue – 10th floor
New York, NY 10022