South Florida "graupel"ing with frozen precipitation… as well as iguanas

The Weather Authority

By now, you have heard that temperatures are so cold in south Florida — including Miami — that iguanas are falling from trees in a frozen stupor. The National Weather Service in Miami released the unusual forecast detailing the impacts of the abnormally cold conditions.

On Wednesday morning, temperatures dropped to the upper 30s along the Atlantic Coast, and into the low to mid 30s further inland.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), iguanas “begin to get sluggish when temperatures fall under 50 degrees…if temperatures drop below that, [they] freeze up.

However, “frozen” iguanas were not the only items precipitating out of the sky. A few areas in coastal Palm Beach County as well as Broward County observed graupel, which is a German word for “sleet”.

However, in America, “graupel” is not exactly the same as sleet, and it most definitely is not snow (though it has snowed in Miami before — on January 19, 1977).

Graupel is a type of frozen precipitation that can be described as small, soft ice pellets, softer than sleet (which forms when liquid rain falls into a shallow layer of frozen temperatures near the ground). If you’ve ever experienced the delicious treat known as Dippin’ Dots, graupel can resemble that particular brand of ice cream from the future.

Graupel is different than sleet in that it forms when snowflakes fall into an area of super-cooled rain. The rain drops are below freezing, but the physical conditions are not favorable for the liquid to convert to ice, even though the water is below the freezing point. Once the frozen snowflake comes into contact with super-cooled liquid rain, the liquid freezes on contact, creating the fuzzy grains of ice.

Graupel can be confused for hail (though hail occurs in a much warmer atmosphere). Graupel can also be confused for sleet or snowflakes, but graupel tends to occur when ground temperatures are in the upper 30s to low 40s.

 

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