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Difference Between Hail and Sleet

Hail vs Sleet

The study of the atmosphere or meteorology dates back a few thousand years ago, but it saw great development starting from the 18th century. It is used to measure the interaction between the Earth’s atmosphere and its temperature, air pressure, water vapor, and other aspects. Results of these studies are used in weather forecasting which is very useful in transportation, agriculture, the military, and in all other human endeavors which can be affected by changes in the weather.

Rain is the first one to be measured because it can be seen, and it happens most often in all places. The first devices used to measure precipitation and rain were the rain gauge, anemometer, and hygrometer. Precipitation is the product of atmospheric water vapor condensation which falls towards the Earth due to gravity. It can be in the form of liquid water (rain and drizzle), liquid water that freezes upon contact with the surface (freezing rain or drizzle), or frozen water (snow, ice needles, hail, and sleet).

Hail is a solid precipitation which contains lumps of ice which have irregular shapes and are called hail stones that can range in size from .20 to 7.9 inches in diameter. It is formed during strong thunderstorms. Thunderclouds with strong updrafts or upward motion of air combined with high liquid content that produce big water droplets and a below freezing temperature level produce hail. As it grows in size, it falls faster towards the ground.

Its effects can be devastating both to buildings and other structures as well as to crops, livestock, and human lives. Weather satellites and radar are used to detect thunderstorms that may produce hail, and warnings are issued to prevent incurring serious damage to property and lives. While hail usually occurs in the summer or during warm weather, another solid precipitation occurs during winter, sleet. It is also referred to as ice pellets which are tiny, crystalline balls of ice.

It is smaller than hail and is formed when clouds are warmer than the air below them and when there is only very little updraft. It does not freeze in the clouds but it freezes in the cold air as it falls down to Earth. Unlike hail, it does not collect layers of frozen water so it is small and melts quickly.


1.Hail is a kind of solid precipitation which is made up of lumps of ice which are irregularly shaped while sleet is a type of solid precipitation which is made up of tiny, crystalline balls of ice.
2.Hail usually occurs during warm weather specifically during thunderstorms while sleet occurs during cold weather or winter.
3.Hail collects layers of frozen water while sleet does not.
4.Hail is formed in thunderclouds with high liquid content and a temperature with strong updrafts while sleet falls from the clouds as rain and turns into sleet as it comes in contact with the cold air of the atmosphere.
5.Sleet is smaller and less destructive while hail is bigger and is more of a threat to properties and lives.

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