John Wheeler: Snowflakes have a hexagonal fixation

There are many variations of snowflakes, almost always with either six sides or six trunks.

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FARGO — Snowflake crystals usually grow as dendrites. A dendrite is a geometric formation that is found in many places in nature. At its most basic, a dendritic formation is tree-like, having a base point or trunk with branches emanating from the base and then additional branches on those branches. Snowflake dendrites usually have either six main trunks emanating from a point, or they form as a six-sided plate. There are many variations, almost always with either six sides or six trunks.

Growing snowflakes can also build vertically along their prism faces, resulting in column or needle shapes. Sometimes, snowflakes grow as combinations of these variations. The temperature and humidity in the cloud are what determines the growth patterns of snowflakes, which is why snowflakes on a particular day are all similar, but flakes will vary greatly day to day as conditions change.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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