BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Snow can be pesky. Snow can be tough. But snow can also be beautiful and fascinating.
You’ve all heard the saying…no 2 snowflakes are the same. The reason behind it, you may not be as familiar with. Jason Benedict, Associate professor of Chemistry from the University of Buffalo, told News 4, “The unique shape of the snowflakes originates from its crystal structure that arises from how these water molecules change from the liquid or gas phase into a solid state.”
Once they become a solid, that’s when they take on the shapes that many of you are used to seeing. Benedict said, “A lot of times we see these clumps or balls and these can be crystals of ice that are very microscopic that clump together as they fall. But under right conditions, you can have the growth of these beautiful classic snowflakes.”
Those classic snowflakes typically have a hexagonal shape, 6 sides, with long symmetrical branching arms. They can range from something microscopic to millimeters in size that you see with the naked eye on your arm or windshield.
Two factors that control what the snowflake looks like are temperature and the amount of water that is around. Benedict explained, “Really low temperatures combined with the right amount of humidity can really cause these crystals to take off in a direction and grow much faster in one direction than in another direction.”
The intricate details of those real life snowflakes made in the atmosphere are often recreated by students and artists. What sometimes happens when doing so, is that they are given a new look adding sometimes more branches or a non-symmetrical shape. In actuality that could never happen in nature. Benedict says, “Just like you can’t fit an octagon nicely over a hexagon, it’s really the same sort of principal.”
If you are interested in learning more about the science behind snowflakes and their shape, click here.