How Do Snowflakes Form? ❄️

3 min read

Morning Snowflakes!

Imagine this:

You’re all warmy and snug in your house on a cold winter's day.

Drinking some hot Cocoa

You look out the window…

And notice these tiny, little shapes falling by.

Each as beautiful and unique as the last.

Yeah, snowflakes!

But have you ever wondered, how do these things actually form?

Well, snowflakes are actually just specks of dust that fall from the sky.

If it's cold enough, the water in the air starts to cling to the speck of dust, and begins to freeze.

Forming a tiny little ice crystal with a hexagonal shape.

As new water molecules add on, they tend to deposit more readily on the corners of the hexagon.

This is because it requires less energy for ice to stick to corners compared to flat surfaces.

So you get something like this:

And as it continues to fall through the air, it continues to grow.

Sprouting all sorts of new stems and geometric shapes.

As it drifts through the air, the tiny changes in weather conditions affect how the snowflake grows, giving each one its very own unique fractal patterns.

And Tada! Now you have yourself a one of a kind snowflake.

Okay, okay, okay, but why do snowflakes have a hexagonal shape to begin with?

Well, water is made up of a bunch of these things:

Water molecules.

You can see they have 2 hydrogen atoms, and 1 oxygen atom.

Hence, H₂O.

Now, here's the key takeaway:

Due to some complex, sciency reasons, the two hydrogen atoms have a slight positive charge and the one oxygen atom has a slight negative charge.

And as we know, positive and negative charges attract.

So these water molecules bond together.

With the Oxygen atom of one water molecule bonding to a hydrogen atom of another.

This is what's called a hydrogen bond.

When water freezes, this bonding occurs on repeat, occurring over and over again.

And due to the angle between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms being juuuust right.

The water molecules form into…

A hexagon!

This is what snowflakes are made up of.

And it retains this hexagonal shape as it grows.

Stay Cute,
Reece, Henry & Dylan 🌈

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