Shop Windows to the Universe

Learn about planets outside our solar system through Exoplanets and Alien Solar Systems by Tahir Yaqoob, Ph.D., a book in our online store book collection.
This image is of ice on a fence, trees, and a power line. The ice is from freezing rain in Kansas on December 10-11, 2007.
Click on image for full size
National Weather Service Forecast Office of Topeka, KS

Sleet and Freezing Rain

Sleet forms when a partially melted snowflake or raindrop turns back into ice as it is falling through the air. Sleet starts out in a cloud as a snowflake or a raindrop. It may be a snowflake or a raindrop, depending on the temperature of the layer of air where it is in the sky. The snowflake or raindrop travels downwards through a much warmer layer of air. The snowflake starts to melt in this layer. As the raindrop and the melted snowflake continue their journey, they come to the last layer. This is a cold layer that makes the raindrop freeze and the snowflake refreeze. Sleet is usually tiny clear ice pellets that bounce when they hit the ground. These ice pellets are smaller than hail.

Freezing Rain happens when raindrops fall in liquid form and immediately freeze as they hit a cold surface. The journey of freezing rain is like the journey for sleet, except that freezing rain travels through a much larger warmer layer than sleet. This means that the snowflake melts to form a raindrop. The last layer that the melted snowflake and the raindrop travel through is a very small cold layer. This cold layer makes the melted snowflake and raindrop very cold, but they don’t freeze. The melted snowflake and the raindrop end their journey when they hit the surface and freeze. Both the raindrop and the melted snowflake freeze because their temperatures are very cold, and the surface is very cold.

Freezing rain can cause roads to be slippery like ice skating rinks. The ice that forms on trees can get so heavy and thick that the branches break off of the tree.


Last modified July 24, 2008 by Vanessa Pearce.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Rain

Raindrops form when tiny water droplets collide together in clouds to form bigger ones. When they get too heavy, rain falls out of the clouds. Rain is more than 5mm in diameter. The types of clouds that...more

Examples of Advisories, Watches, and Warnings for Weather Events

Below is a list of different weather advisories, watches, and warnings. Severe Thunderstorm Watch: A severe thunderstorm watch is issued when a thunderstorm with strong winds and/or hail the size of a...more

Type of Wind: Northeaster

Northeasters, also known as nor’easters, are cold winds that can bring heavy snow or sleet. These winds blow from 40-55 mph (64.5-88.7 kph). They are classified as gale winds. Most snowstorms in the eastern...more

Tonenili, Navajo God of Water

Tonenili is the Navaho God of Water.  He is also called the Water Sprinkler because he sprinkles water on people. He makes rain, sleet, and snow. He also makes thunder and lightning Tonenili is a very...more

Sleet and Freezing Rain

Sleet forms when a partially melted snowflake or raindrop turns back into ice as it is falling through the air. Sleet starts out in a cloud as a snowflake or a raindrop. It may be a snowflake or a raindrop,...more

Drizzle

Drizzle is very light rain; the water drops that make up drizzle are smaller than rain drops. Drizzle can be so light that only a millimeter of water falls to the Earth's surface in one day. It is produced...more

Rain Shadow

A rain shadow is a dry region of land on the side of a mountain range that is protected from winds. The protected side of a mountain range is also called the lee side or the down-wind side. Winds carry...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA