How to identify snowflakes

Did you know snowflakes come in all shapes and sizes?

Snowflake identification is a fun and easy way to get kids outdoors in the winter, and spark an interest in science.

Why not turn your next winter adventure into a lesson on snowflake identification?

Snowflake identification

Woman snowshoeing

Short: illustrations of 5 different snowflakes Long: snowflake with 6 squared-off sides, snowflake with four cones attached at tips in centre, snowflake with 6 sides with many fractals on each side, snowflake with large 6-sided interior and fractals on tip of each side joined together, 6-sided tube snowflake sandwiched by two flat 6-sided parts on each end.
Photo: SnowCrystals

Step one: Watch for fresh falling snow.

Step two: Encourage your friends and family to join you.

Step three: Put on warm winter clothing.

Step four: Head outside.

Step five: Catch falling snowflakes, or scoop up fresh snowflakes from the ground, and place them on a piece of black felt, your mitten, or your sleeve.

Step six: Take a closer look at the snowflakes, using a magnifying glass if you have one, and see if you can identify them using this snowflake identification chart from Snow Crystals.

Short: chart demonstrating 35 different snowfakes and their names underneath. Long: Single prism: short and shout elongated hexagonal prism Solid columns: elongated hexagonal prism column Sheaths: solid column with pointed end Scrolls on plates: flat hexagonal snowflake with tall edges overlapping each point Triangular forms: squared off triangle with two nodes on each "point" Hexagonal plates: flat hexagon Hollow columns: long and stout tube with hollows on each end Cups: hexagonal cup with pointed end and flared out opening Columns on plates: flat hexagonal flake with columns on each tip 12-branched star: star with 12 branches Stellar plates: hexagonal plate with nodes on each point Bullet rosettes: four columns attached by pointed tips Capped columns: stout hexagonal column sandwiched by two larger flat hexagons Split plates and stars: 6-sided star with thick branches, two branches are seperated Radiating plates: 6 non-identical plates attached together haphazardly Sectored plates: hexagonal flake, each branch with a long line in the middle with two smaller lines on each side Isolated bullets: short and stout column with one pointed end and one hollow end Multiply capped columns: arraying sized rectangles joined by thick lines Skeletal forms: 6 sided star with long lines down the middle of each branch, platformed on a hexagon Radiating dendrites: snowflake with branches from all sides, many tiny fractals coming from each branch Simple stars: 6 sided star Simple needles: very narrow and long column Capped bullets: three cup-like snowflakes joined together by tips Twin columns: two very short and stout columns joined together by flat side Irregulars: many shards haphazardly Stellar dendrites: thick 6 sided star with thick dendrites on each branch Needle clusters: multiple needles clustered together in a bundle Double plates: hexagon made of up 6 different plates Arrowhead twins: three arrowhead shapes layered on top of each other Rimed: dotted hexagon Fernlike stellar dendrites: 6 sided star with thick and fern-like dendrites Crossed needles: two needles crossed over each other at centres Hollow plates: thick hexagon with hollows along each side except top and bottom Crossed plates: multiple plates overlapping in two layers Graupel: diamond-like shape with smoothed off top and rough sides
Photo: SnowCrystals

Step seven: Repeat until you’ve ID-ed a range of different snowflakes.

Step eight: Head inside to document your findings, and warm up with
some hot chocolate or your favourite winter treat.

Feeling crafty?

Man and woman play in snow

Too snowy to venture outside?

Continue your snowflake identification lesson by creating some paper snowflakes. See how many types of snowflakes you can make!

Here are some simple instructions:

Siagram on how to make paper snowflakes

You’re ready to become a snowflake expert!