Snow can be annoying, but there's something enchanted about watching those large, fluffy flakes fall from the sky. Particularly the larger snow crystals with their exquisite symmetry and original patterns. However, have you ever considered the maximum size of a snowflake? Remarkably large snowflakes do hold a Guinness World Record, though the process is more complicated than it seems.
The Guinness World Records states that on the evening of January 27, 1887, a strong winter storm dropped snowflakes "larger than milk pans" over the Clark Fork River valley, close to a ranch owned by Matt Coleman, near Missoula, Montana, USA. "According to reports, they measured up to 8 in (20 cm) in thickness and 1 ft 3 in (38 cm) in width." It may seem like a gigantic ball of ice, but it's crucial to distinguish between snowflakes and snow crystals. Water freezes from a gas to a solid without first becoming a liquid, resulting in the former. They have those six-fold symmetric patterns as a result, with the environment dictating the pattern. On the other hand, snowflakes can be any clump that comes down from the wintery sky.
Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht, a physics professor and seasoned snow researcher, states that "under very calm conditions, these puffballs can grow into pancake-shaped agglomerations as large as a dinner plate, although this is exceedingly rare." Libbrecht, who has studied snow for more than 20 years, set out to find the largest snow crystal with this distinction in mind. The Guinness World Records state that "Professor Kenneth Libbrecht (USA) in Cochrane, Ontario, Canada, on December 30, 2003, documented the largest individual snow crystal measured, which was 10 mm (0.39 in) from tip to tip." Regular snow crystals, on the other hand, typically have a diameter of two to four millimetres.
"Only twice have I observed such large snow crystals; both instances occurred in Cochrane, Ontario. The air was perfectly calm and the temperature was close to -15 C (5 F), which is ideal for creating fern-like stellar dendrites, according to Libbrecht. "I saw these big snow flowers falling for about ten minutes on both occasions." However, this record can be broken with a bit of good fortune. When averaged over a normal year, Libbrecht calculates that approximately a million billion snowflakes fall every second. "Every ten minutes, that's enough snow to build a snowman for every person on the planet." Keep an eye out for the next massive snow crystal if you reside in any of the locations he lists as having the "greatest snow on Earth."