The Evolution of a Snowflake Is Like…Our Own

(Video link HERE.)  This wondrous video made us look up “How Are Snowflakes Formed?”, a question that we realize we’ve never known the answer to. We found that the answers curiously echo the creative process and individual growth:

These ice crystals that make up snowflakes are symmetrical (or patterned) because they reflect the internal order of the crystal’s water molecules as they arrange themselves in predetermined spaces (known as “crystallization”) to form a six-sided snowflake. 

Ultimately, it is the temperature at which a crystal forms — and to a lesser extent the humidity of the air — that determines the basic shape of the ice crystal. Thus, we see long needle-like crystals at 23 degrees F and very flat plate-like crystals at 5 degrees F.  

The intricate shape of a single arm of the snowflake is determined by the atmospheric conditions experienced by entire ice crystal as it falls. A crystal might begin to grow arms in one manner, and then minutes or even seconds later, slight changes in the surrounding temperature or humidity causes the crystal to grow in another way. Although the six-sided shape is always maintained, the ice crystal (and its six arms) may branch off in new directions. Because each arm experiences the same atmospheric conditions, the arms look identical.


Alexey Kljatov

Alexey Kljatov

Why are no two snowflakes exactly alike?

…that’s because individual snowflakes all follow slightly different paths from the sky to the ground —and thus encounter slightly different atmospheric conditions along the way. Therefore, they all tend to look unique, resembling everything from prisms and needles to the familiar lacy pattern. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration



After a near record-breaking number of snowfalls on the East Coast (and elsewhere) this winter — with another storm on the way — we’ve been hearing a lot of bitching and moaning to the tune of ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. We were thinking the same thing until we saw this video and poked around. Now we’re seeing it all as miraculous! If you want to see more miracles, check out Alexey Kljatov’s stunning macro photos of individual snow flakes. There’s a whole portfolio of them here.

One Response to The Evolution of a Snowflake Is Like…Our Own

  1. Ann 02.27.2014 at 9:16am #

    Very nice post. You might like the poster here . . .
    It shows how temperature affects the shape of snowflakes. After seeing this I understand why some snowflakes hurt so much when they hit your face!

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