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The delicate snow flurries that you watch fall from your window, shovel off your sidewalk, and curse when they turn into slush puddles, have quite a long adventure before they make it to the ground. A snowflake begins its descent to the tip of your nose or the top of your car from thousands of feet above the Earth. Its journey starts when ice forms around a speck of dust and gets blown by winds through the clouds, where its crystals then bloom into tiny ice stars.
And because it weighs next to nothing, it may take a snow crystal hours to drift down.
Snowflakes - Level - Moneesh - Upmanyu - Engineering
You may have heard that no two snowflakes are alike, and that's true, but they're not particularly different from each other on a molecular level, said Moneesh Upmanyu, a mechanical and industrial engineering professor at Northeastern.
He said that the shape of a snowflake is determined by the temperature and humidity of the air where it forms.
Temperature - Water - Molecules - Snowflake - Humidity
"Temperature controls how fast water molecules attach to the snowflake," he said. "Humidity controls how many water molecules saturating the air are available over the course of its growth."
Scientists have organized the crystal structures of snowflakes into eight general categories, including columns, planes, and irregular particles.
Snowflakes - Hand
Contrary to how you make snowflakes by hand, by...
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