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Graupel: A candy, a Harry Potter character, or type of snow? Weather Service explains

Friday snow accumulates quickly. Watch it fall in slow motion

Another winter snow storm blanketed the Kansas City metro with snow Friday. The snow started falling in the morning and quickly accumulated. Watch it fall in slow motion.
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Another winter snow storm blanketed the Kansas City metro with snow Friday. The snow started falling in the morning and quickly accumulated. Watch it fall in slow motion.

“What is graupel?!”

That was the title of a quick lesson the National Weather Service provided to its Twitter followers Sunday morning, schooling casual weather watchers on a type of winter precipitation they may not have heard of before.

To some, it appeared that an unusually tough winter that just keeps hitting the Kansas City area was coming up with new types of cold stuff to throw at us.

Saturday night, that stuff was graupel. It came with a band of snow and freezing drizzle that moved through the Kansas City area Saturday night, one day after a snow storm.

So what is it?

To differentiate graupel from snow, sleet, freezing rain and hail, the weather service provided a graphic outlining how it forms and under what conditions.

Graupel, the weather service says, also goes by the more familiar name of snow pellets.

It is a cold precipitation that forms first as snow, then is rimed in layers by supercooled liquid from updrafts into showers.

It usually occurs when the lower atmosphere is very unstable, when cloud temperatures are mostly below freezing and in places colder than 15 degrees. It comes when surface temperatures are generally 45 degrees or colder.

The weather service said it made the graphic after many people were introduced to the niche weather term for perhaps the first time.

Some responded to the tweet, saying they were familiar with the term thanks to longtime Kansas City meteorologist Gary Lezak. Others said they thought graupel sounded like a candy or a Harry Potter character.

Another, sounding tired of the cold and not having any fun with the names given to winter weather, was simply “not amused.”

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Ian Cummings is the breaking news editor for The Kansas City Star, where he started as a reporter in 2015. He is a Kansas City native who graduated from the University of Kansas in 2012.
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