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What's graupel? You've likely seen it, even if you didn't know the name.

In Western New York, we pride ourselves on familiarity with every kind of precipitation — but graupel?

You've probably seen it, even if you didn't know the name for it.

The National Severe Storms Laboratory description for graupel is soft small pellets of ice created when supercooled water droplets coat a snowflake. The ground temperature doesn't need to be freezing for graupel to form. It's not quite sleet and it's not quite hail; it's a hybrid precipitation.

Graupel is common in transition seasons when temperatures aren't freezing yet. It's often mistaken for small hail, but it looks similar to small snow pellets. Because it's not as stable as ice, it will usually fall apart when touched.

Forms of frozen precipitation, from left: hail, graupel, sleet and snow. (Image courtesy of the National Severe Storms Laboratory)

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