8 March 2014

Why your car is covered with an inch of ice, instead of a foot of snow!

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Wintry Precip thumbnail _ Ocko

Guest post by Ilissa Ocko

Ever wondered what the “wintry mix”’ you were suffering through was really made of, or argued with a friend about whether you were seeing sleet or hail? Wonder no more!

On a recent ski trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, my husband and I encountered almost every type of precipitation possible.
It had snowed four feet in four days where we snowmobiled in Yellowstone National Park; at the top of Rendezvous mountain, graupel (snow pellets) blinded us as we fought our way towards a waffle café; and our trek to dinner in Teton Village was a messy sleet (ice pellet) disaster. As a meteorologist and climate scientist, respectively, my husband and I were like kids in a playground.
Ironically, virtually the only type of winter precipitation we didn’t encounter is the one type that we overheard onlookers mistaking everything else for: hail.
Our professions not only sculpt our fascination with precipitation, but they also make us incredibly sensitive to terminology. However, my husband’s repeated, detailed explanations of the difference between certain types of precipitation to those around us were too nuanced and complicated even for me to follow easily.
That’s what got the scientific illustrator in me inspired. After sketching it out with my husband on the flight home, we finally developed the handy guide you see before you.

Click image for full size version and feel free to share!

Click image for full size version and feel free to share!

— Ilissa Ocko is a young professional with a passion for science, graphic design, and science communication. She currently works as a post-doctoral scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund in New York City.