THE TAXONOMY OF SNOW: DENDRITES, ROSETTES, & STELLAR PLATES


These aren't newly smuggled photos of a futuristic new microchip, nor are they rendered by a computer. They're flecks of nature's most photogenic prepitation: snow.

Did you know there's a classification system for snowflakes? Depending on which meterological expert you consult, there are 40 to 80 different kinds of flakes, each with their own subspecies and morphologies in their families.

Here's a chart for your reference:

 

The names of the categories are where it really gets interesting. Here, for example we bring you the classic, graphic

"stellar dendrite"

 

A much more avant-gaurd family of flakes is known as the "bullet rosettes." An apt name for this much more aggressive, jewel-like ice formation.

 

Our favorite here at WCIP has to be the very unusual triangular crystals.

Flakes sometimes grow as truncated triangles when the temperature is near -2 C (28 F).  If the corners of the plates sprout arms, the result is an odd version of a stellar plate crystal.  These crystals are relatively rare.
Surprisingly, no one knows why snow crystals grow into these three-fold symmetrical shapes.  (Note however that the molecular structure of triangular crystals is no different from ordinary six-sided crystals.  The facet angles are all the same.

 

Here's a powerful example of how human attempts to mimic nature can't quite compare. Below is an image of man-made snow, used in ski resorts or films. The result of the clumsy hand of man is a primitive conglomeration of blobby balls - a mockery of nature's flawless geometry.

 

 

Read more here.