What is graupel? We break down this often misunderstood precipitation type

Digital WritersThe Weather Network
Digital Writers

Is it small hail? Big snow? Both? Here's the explanation.

A few places in Canada have been re-introduced to winter weather this week, and some places, particularly in Ontario, found themselves pelted with what looks like small hail.

It's not hail, however – that is typically formed in thunderstorms. Rather, the small, soft pellets are what is known as graupel, when supercooled water droplets high in the atmosphere freeze into a snow crystal.

When conditions are right, it can grow to considerably larger than a snowflake, but not quite as large as a hailstone.

Sometimes called snow pellets or soft hail, they're also not as potentially destructive as hail. In fact, they're quite fragile, disintegrating easily.

For more on graupel, watch the video above.