sky nuggets

A few days ago some late afternoon clouds rolled in, the winds picked up, and then stuff started falling out of the sky really violently. It was a big thunderstorm with hail.

The first thing I noticed after the storm passed is how these little chunks of ice stayed on the ground, but they disappeared fastest on the hard surfaces and stayed the longest on the soft grass and other plants:

Hail remains on the plants on the left, but it has already melted on the rocks.

I thought this was interesting enough, but it was even more interesting when I looked more closely at some of these hail remains:

A little hail nugget resting on the small leaves of some thyme.

When I saw this hail up close I noticed a few more features that surprised me. First, it wasn’t round. It looked like a tooth or a candy-corn or a mini-pyramid. And also, it looked like it had stripes or layers. I thought I might just be imagining this, or maybe this was just a random strange piece of hail. So I started looking around in the grass more. I started to find these striped “teeth” hail all over!

I expect to see layers in rock or sand sometimes, but it’s funny to see it in ice that’s fallen out of the sky. It made me wonder:

  • Why are these hail pieces shaped this way, like a candy-corn or a tooth? How did they form?
  • When they fell, were they pointed with the pointy side up or down? And how could we figure this out without waiting for the next hail storm? Is there an experiment we could create?
  • And where did those stripes come from? Are the clear stripes made differently from the white stripes? Are these different layers made at different times, or did they come off of some other big chunk, or were they made in a whole different way?
  • Why have I not noticed this kind of hail before? Is it rare? Or does it happen all the time and I just wasn’t paying attention? I thought hail was round most of the time, but maybe I wasn’t looking carefully. If there are different kinds of hail, what makes them?

Have you ever observed hail like this? Or have you seen different kinds of hail or did you make different observations of the same kinds of hail? I think there’s a lot more we could observe and wonder about. Now, I can’t wait for it to hail again in my backyard so I can go see what it looks like next time!

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