Graupel: A Different Word for Snow

| 12/17/2009 9:02:37 AM

Tags: wonk, words, snow,

KC ComptonEarlier yesterday, we were hemmed in by a cold, dense fog. Later in the day weather conditions morphed into a storm of little ice pellets that bounced off the frozen grass like popcorn, clicking like tiny fingernails on my window glass. Fearless Editor Hank stopped by my office, and I pointed excitedly out the window.

“I know what that is!”

“What? The sleet?” he asked, peering out into the yuck outside.

“No! It’s grapple … no, wait … not that … it’s … it’s GRAUPEL!”

See? There is an exactly right word for absolutely everything. Graupel isn’t just your garden-variety sleet. It’s that fluffy, pellet-y stuff that forms when freezing fog condenses on a snowflake. The distinction between sleet and graupel, I think, is that graupel is fluffy-looking and sleet is icy. Graupel looks like a hybrid between snow and a ball-bearing.

Call me a wonk; I love these minute distinctions that make one thing not another. One of the ways I know I’m in exactly the right career is the glee I feel when I’ve discovered the precisely right word for something.

1/9/2011 10:39:05 AM

I think your word closely describes what I am looking for but not quite, although I do love graupel! What I am wanting to find a word for is when snow falls down in little balls of snow and they aren't hard, do not make a sound, just as soft as "regular snow", but they do have a soft pellet shape. I had heard the term corn snow when I was in Colorado, but from what I can find on the web this is a condition after it has landed on the ground and partially thawed and frozen.

Brenda Kipp_1
12/18/2009 4:49:06 PM

I don't care what it's called, I don't like it! Give me good old-fashioned American snow! I saw a guy interviewed on TV not long ago. He photographs snowflakes. I believe he was putting them (the photos, not the snowflakes)together in a book. I love snowflakes. I think they are one of the most fascinating creations God ever made. It's amazing how something so small can have such intricate detail. Too bad they all have to melt!

KC Compton_2
12/18/2009 11:37:47 AM

Thanks for the comments, and Hallooo up there in Nebraska and points North. Yes, I agree, graupel, gutteral though it sounds, still rolls off the tongue a little better than "styrofoam snow pellets." :=] And, yes, Dave, how right you are about the beauty all around us. Stopping to notice is all it takes. This is why I'm so grateful for my dog. His nose takes us out twice a day to notice his world and while I'm out there on the leash, I might as well notice MY world, too. I hear we're supposed to get a few flow snurries tonight, and I'm planning to be very grateful for my fireplace again. Much holiday cheer out to both of you! --KC

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