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Difference between Hail and Sleet

Difference between Hail and Sleet

When winter weather hits, it’s important to know the difference between hail and sleet. Both can cause dangerous road conditions, but understanding their specific characteristics can help you stay safe. Hail is made up of small pieces of ice that fall from the sky, while sleet is a mixture of rain and snow. Sleet tends to be less dangerous than hail because it doesn’t bounce as much when it falls, but both can cause slick roads and limited visibility. Make sure you know what to expect during winter weather, so you can take the necessary precautions.

What is Hail?

Hail is a form of precipitation that falls from the sky in the form of balls or lumps of ice.

  • Hailstones can vary in size, with the largest on record measuring over 20 centimeters in diameter. Hail is most commonly associated with thunderstorms, but can also occur during other types of storms, such as hurricanes.
  • Hailstones form when updrafts in a thunderstorm cause water droplets to be blown high into the atmosphere. These droplets freeze and then fall back to the ground, where they are caught up in another updraft and blown upwards again.
  • This process continues until the hailstones become too heavy to be carried by the updrafts and fall to the ground. Hail can cause significant damage to crops, vehicles, and property. It can also be dangerous to people caught outdoors during a hail storm.

What is Sleet?

Sleet is a type of precipitation that generally falls as a mixture of ice pellets and snow. Sleet typically forms when there is a layer of cold air near the ground and a layer of warm air above it. As the warm air rises, it encounters the cold air and condenses into drops of water. These drops then freeze into ice pellets, which fall to the ground along with any snowflakes that are present. Sleet can be very treacherous to drive in, as it can quickly turn roads and highways into icy slick surfaces. In order to stay safe on the roads during sleet storms, it is important to take extra care when driving and allow for additional stopping time.

Difference between Hail and Sleet

Hail and sleet are both forms of precipitation that occur when cold air clashes with warm air.

  • However, there are some key differences between the two. Hail is generally larger in size than sleet, and it falls to the ground with more force. Hailstones form high in the atmosphere when water droplets freeze around a core of ice.
  • Sleet, on the other hand, forms closer to the ground and is made up of ice pellets that have melted and refrozen. When conditions are right, sleet can fall as a mixture of rain and snow.
  • In general, hail is more damaging than sleet because of its size and force. However, sleet can still cause problems, especially when it accumulates on roads and sidewalks.


While hail and sleet may look very similar, they have different effects on both people and property. It is important to be able to distinguish between the two in order to take proper precautions during bad weather. Hopefully, this post has helped you understand the difference between hail and sleet a little better. Stay safe out there!

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