As trillions upon trillions of snowflakes prepare for their wintry debut, we've got the science behind the magic.
What a completely enchanting world we live in, and for us winter-lovers the magic is in full force. Swaths of snowy landscape earn the title of "wonderland" as blankets of beautiful frozen glitter frost everything in perfect fairytale form ... for which we have gazillions of individual snowflakes to thank.
Seriously, snowflakes are crazy – such intricacy and so delicate, ephemeral little treasures. What kind of wizardry is going on up there in the sky?! Fortunately, we have science to pull back the curtain and reveal what's really going. Over on sister site, MNN, Russell McLendon goes into lovely detail about all things snow (Flaking out: How snow forms) and a few years ago here on TreeHugger we looked at how snowflakes form. But now the American Chemical Society has published a new video diving deeper into the structure of snowflakes thanks to advances in crystallography.
In the short video we learn that while snowflakes start out basically the same – and have a heart of dust at their core – they all end up different. That no two snowflakes are alike is in fact, a fact; and the number of possible shapes is "staggering." Over the years crystallographers have been classifying snowflake shapes into categories based on their arrangement of atoms – by 2013 there were 121 classifications. Shapes include the standard dendrite (second from top), stellar (third from top), and broad branch (above). So much beauty in just a speck of frozen water ... and a little dust.
You can watch how it all happens here:
And for more spectacular images, see: Macro photos of snowflakes show impossibly perfect designs.