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What is graupel and how is it different from hail? Colorado weather explainer

We see all types of precipitation here in Colorado, and oftentimes we get a lot of it during transition seasons like May and June when the early spring snow turns into rain, hail, or graupel.

It’s this time of year that Denver7’s weather team gets a lot of viewers asking: What is the difference between hail and graupel?

Denver7 morning meteorologist Lisa Hidalgo breaks it down in the video player below.

What is graupel and how is it different than hail? Colorado weather explainer

What is graupel?

Graupel is the name for small, soft pellets that are almost like mini styrofoam balls falling from the sky – or the Dippin’ Dots of Colorado precipitation.

Graupel occurs due to super-cooled water droplets that will freeze to snow crystals in a process called riming. These stones will be less than two-tenths of an inch in diameter

How is it different than hail?

Hail is frozen precipitation, created by layers of ice that form in a thunderstorm updraft or during convective processes. Hail is at least two-tenths of an inch in diameter.

Obviously, we’ve seen hailstones that have been so much bigger here in Colorado. In fact, in 2023, the largest hailstone ever recorded in our state fell in Yuma County, measuring 5.25 inches in diameter.

In many cases, the hail’s not going to look perfectly round. It’ll have almost little spikes coming off of it due to that freezing and melting process and as it continues up and through the cloud cover.

Now, as we get into June, we’re unfortunately going to be seeing more hail storms, more of these severe thunderstorm warnings, bringing the chance for some of those Colorado hail storms.

Colorado hail season: When and why we see so much hail

Colorado hail season: When and why we see so much hail

Denver7 Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson explains peak hail season in Colorado, where the elevation is higher than most other states because of the Rocky Mountains.

Since the storms are a little closer to the colder air, we see a lot of hailstorms in Colorado – especially in May, June and early July.

DENVER WEATHER LINKS: Hourly forecast | Radars | Traffic | Weather Page | 24/7 Weather Stream

Click here to watch the Denver7 live weather stream.

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