The Eric Factor: It’s true, no snowflakes are alike but not all have six sides

You've probably heard that no two snowflakes are alike and that is absolutely true. However, while most snowflakes are hexagonal, not all have six sides.

There are actually 8 different types of snowflakes, many distinguishable in our part of the world in a winter season. Here is a list of all eight snowflakes you can see next time we have some wintry weather.

Dendrites are the most common and distinguishable of all snowflakes. Stellar Dendrites are the most recognizable of them all and are star-shaped. The name dendrite is Greek in origin, meaning "Tree-Like." Fern Dendrites are larger and leafier versions of the stellar dendrite and are largest of all snow crystals.

Columns and needles are really unique snowflakes in that they occur when temperatures are quite chilly. Columns and needles are seen when temperatures are around 21 degrees and can be mistaken for hair. Capped columns may resemble the large spools that construction workers use to lay wire. These are quite rare, only occurring with temperatures around 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hardy Midwesterners have probably observed diamond dust. That happens in the very coldest of airmasses, sometimes when it's sunny out! The farther below zero, the better chance you'll see diamond dust fall. 

Triangular crystals are the most intriguing of all snowflakes, perhaps because we don't entirely know why they form. It is theorized that aerodynamics of the process of falling change the shape. These are proof that not all snowflakes have six sides.

Rime ice flakes occur as super-cooled water droplets, suspended in the air run into a snowflake. They create blobs of six-sided rime flakes but most times they form little blobs. When that happens, they are called graupel.

Finally, if you look hard enough, you might observe a twelve-branched snowflake. These are produced when two six-sided flakes run into one another. While you'd think these are the rarest, they actually happen more often than you think.

-Meteorologist Eric Sorensen

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