Why Snowflakes are Never Two the Same?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - 11:10

Snowflakes may be tiny but there is complicated science happening within each and every flake and as scientists say, the chances of two snowflakes being exactly alike are about 1 in 1 million trillion.

According to an ISCA report, meteorologists think there are 1 trillion, trillion, trillion (a one with 36 zeros!) types of snowflakes.

A snowflake has three basic ingredients: ice crystals, water vapor, and dust and because a snowflake’s shape evolves as it journeys through the air, no two will ever be the same.

Even two flakes floating side by side will each be blown through different levels of humidity and vapor to create a shape that is truly unique.

Ken Libbrecht, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology and a snowflake expert, said first it is important to understand how flakes form in the atmosphere.

Clouds are mostly made of water droplets. A snowflake begins when a single droplet freezes and starts to grow by absorbing water vapor from the air (this water vapor is the product of other water droplets that have evaporated). About 100,000 water droplets evaporate in the process of making just one snowflake.

When the water molecules attach to one another to form snowflakes, they're actually forming crystals. In crystals, molecules line up in a nice, orderly fashion. The kind of crystals that water molecules like to form is six-sided, or hexagonal.

"A crystal is a solid in which the molecules are lined up in a regular array," Libbrecht said. "Think of them as building blocks and the blocks all stacked together a certain way."

Libbrecht says we do not exactly understand why different shapes form, but we do know it has to do with the conditions where the flakes grow.

"When they grow in the clouds the way they look depends on the path they take through the clouds," Libbrecht said. "Since no two snowflakes follow exactly the same path, no two snowflakes look exactly alike."


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