Difference Between Sleet and Hail

Sleet vs Hail

Have you been sucked by hail or sleet in the midst of a picnic? These are weather phenomenon best experienced from your window or rooftop rather than having to face when you are trying to catch a bus on the street. Let us include a third irritating variant, freezing rain to complete the troika. Many people remain confused and cannot make out differences between these three weather phenomenon and it is really foolish for someone to say he was hit by hail during a winter storm. This article attempts to clarify these differences between hail and sleet to remove all doubts from the minds of the readers.

When the temperature of the surface is so cool that it is near zero degrees Celsius, the rain that is falling becomes super cooled upon contact with this surface and freezes. This is a phenomenon referred to as freezing rain. You would be surprised to know that freezing rain starts as snow but melts when it comes in contact with warm air and turns into rain. Then it comes in contact with a super cool layer of air that cools this rain. When this cold rain water touches freezing ground, it becomes freezing rain forming a thin layer of ice. Though freezing rain is more commonly encountered, sleet is more visible than it occurs. Sleet is frozen raindrops that bounce when they hit a hard surface. It occurs during a winter storm and takes place when falling rain comes into contact with a cold layer of air (below freezing temperature). Raindrops become ice pellets after coming into contact with this almost freezing air. These ice pellets accumulate in roads and sidewalks making it hazardous to walk and drive.

Hail is one weather phenomenon that is seen during summer months when thunderstorms occur. Hail is a result of strong updrafts that carry with them chunks of ice upwards into the clouds. During thunderstorms, water freezes into snowflakes in the middle part of the cloud where there is an updraft, changing them into ice pellets. These pellets grow in size as more and more droplets accumulate. When these hail stones become too heavy to be lifted by updrafts, they fall on the ground. Hail stones are much bigger than ice pellets that one sees in a sleet, and have been known to cause damage to crops and occasionally to drivers as they can break windshields of cars.

In brief:

Difference between Sleet and Hail

• The most notable difference between sleet and hail is the size of the ice pellets. While sleet is the size of peas, hail stones can be much bigger in size.

• Sleet causes inconvenience at best, getting accumulated on streets and sidewalks whereas hailstones can cause damage to crops and cars breaking their windshields.

• Hail occurs mostly during summer thunderstorms whereas sleet occurs mostly in winter

• Sleet may create ice layer that remains for several hours creating very unsafe, slippery driving conditions on roads.