What is Sleet?

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What is Sleet?
Depending on which part of the world a person lives, sleets may mean differently. In Canada, the UK, and Ireland, sleet refers to a mixture of rain and snow. During winter, when snow partially melts while falling down, then they are called sleets. In the US however, sleet refers to icy pellets or some form of wet snow or “slush”.

In the US, sleet is among three precipitation forms. Snow is one form of precipitation and the other is called freezing rain. This type of rain is basically the rain that falls during freezing conditions. As this rain touches an object on the ground, it immediately freezes, hence the term freezing rain. Sleets meanwhile look like icy balls formed from frozen raindrops. They differ from hailstones in terms of size. Sleets also occur only during winter months, unlike hail which can be formed during severe weather creating tornadoes and thunderstorms.

Ice pellets or sleets are said to be formed about 5000-1000 feet above the ground where there is above-freezing temperatures and when the temperature above and below this layer is below freezing. When there is snow, some of the flakes will partially melt through this particular warmer layer and refreeze below it just before touching the ground. This refrozen particle from partially melted snow will then form into tiny pellets called sleets. Since sleets are formed with the presence of a “cold” and “warm” layer, they are said to be good indicators of cold and warm temperatures in a snowy day.

Most people that experience winter may welcome the snow, but not freezing rain and sleets as these are forms of ice. These two types of precipitation also form part of a weather occurrence called an ice storm. When ice is involved, in the form of freezing rain and sleet, more destruction will occur in any given place. Ice will cause more structure damage and power outages as it causes more breakage of trees and power lines. So when one is caught in an icy storm with freezing rain and sleet, he/she should stay indoors for safety and protection.

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