Breakdown: It’s snowing! Why all precipitation starts off as snow

Breakdown: It's snowing! Why all precipitation starts off as snow

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As cold air and moisture moves into the Mid-South, rain, sleet, snow and freezing rain are all possible. Sometimes you can get all of these precipitation types with one weather system!

In the winter, all of the precipitation starts off as snow in the upper levels of the troposphere. As the snow falls towards the ground, the varying temperature layers can change the precipitation.

Rain occurs when frozen precipitation melts as it moves through a large warm layer and the surface temperatures are also above freezing. This is the most typical precipitation type in the Mid-South.

In contrast, snow falls through cold air from the cloud all the way to the surface. Snow never encounters air above 32 degrees.

Sleet is a bit different. Frozen precipitation partially or fully melts in a shallow warm air. Then it refreezes into sleet when it reaches a cold layer near the surface. You know it is sleet when it bounces on the car or ground.

Freezing rain starts out as frozen precipitation and then melts in a large warm layer above the ground. The rain then falls and refreezes on the cold surface where temperatures are below freezing. This is what coats trees, power lines and cars.

Having a better grasp on the four types of winter weather and how they occur can help you better prepare when there is a threat for winter weather.

As always, we recommend staying updated with the WMC Action News 5 First Alert Weather App for the latest forecast.

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