Why Snowflakes Are Unique

December 7, 2011

Everybody knows snowflakes are unique - but do you know why?

Though scientists have understood the conditions of snowflake-producing clouds for awhile, no one has really explained what factors make snowflakes so different from one another.

Turns out, tiny temperature changes in the clouds where they form can lead to huge differences in each flake. Caltech Physics Professor Kenneth Libbrecht discovered a few intriguing aspects, which explain why the plates are so thin and the columns are so tall. 

"Ice growth rates can change by a factor of 1000 when the temperature changes by just a few degrees," he explains. 

Once again, it’s all in the details.