Unusual Snow Crystals

May 14, 2020

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Photographer
: Kathy Arbuckle 
Summary Authors: Kathy Arbuckle; Jim Foster

One cold February morning in Spokane, Washington, I was greeted by what seemed like icy flowers scattered about the deck of my home, like the ones shown above. There were thousands of the 6-sided, flower-shaped ice sculptures (perhaps 1/4 inch or 0.6 cm in diameter) that were clearly visible to the unaided eye. These crystals fell as precipitation in the condition that I photographed them. I’d never seen anything like them before. The temperature was below the freezing mark (32 F or 0 C) that morning, but as soon as the Sun rose and its rays found the surface of the deck, they vanished.

It’s possible that these eye-catching crystals were the result of smaller hexagonal snowflakes caught in weak updrafts. More frozen vapor was added each time they ascended until their weight proved too much for the buoyant air and they finally fell out of the clouds, creating the frozen blossoms that adorned my deck. To me, they were a pleasant reminder of the real springtime blooms that would eventually make an appearance. Photo taken on February 1, 2019.

Photo Details: Top - Camera: NIKON COOLPIX P90; Software: Nikon Transfer 1.3 W; Exposure Time: 0.032s (1/31); Aperture: ƒ/3.5; ISO equivalent: 400; Focal Length (35mm): 66; Bottom - same except: Exposure Time: 0.045s (1/22); Aperture: ƒ/3.2; Focal Length (35mm): 46.