Buffalo, NY -- The colder temperatures are almost here, so here's a quick refresher on "cold season" precipitation, if you need it.
The atmosphere can produce snow, hail, sleet, graupel and freezing rain. All are formed differently and mainly depend on temperature and height.
Sticking with the precipitation types that are usually confused (and keeping it simple), hail is ice pellets (layers of ice) that form high in a thunderstorm cloud by being suspended in a thunderstorm's updraft. Hail stones can grow to be very large before dropping out of a storm.
Graupel starts as a snowflake but encounters supercooled water droplets as it falls, which freeze on the snowflake. Graupel is usually smaller than hail and much softer.
Sleet looks like ice pellets but forms differently. Sleet starts out as a snowflake but encounters a warm layer and partially melts but then moves through a cold layer once again and refreezes before hitting the surface.