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No. 57: May-Jun 1988

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Unusually Large Snowflakes

In a recent review of records of falls of very large snowflakes, W.S. Pike lists eleven instances where flakes more than 5 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter have been observed. Of these, we have already cataloged six in GWP2, in Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipita tion, including the prize of the lot: the 15-inch snowflakes that parachuted down on Fort Keough, Montana, on January 28, 1887. Five of Pike's cases that we did not catalog have diameters of "only" 5 or 6 centimeters. The sixth uncataloged observation would certainly have been worth including if we had known about it:

March 24, 1888. Shirenewton, England.

"Snowstorm with extraordinary flakes, some were 3 3/4 in. in diameter, yet only in. thick, falling like plates. The storm lasted only 2 minutes but in this short period the ground was covered 2 in. deep."

The quotation is from British Rainfall, 1988, as requoted by Pike.

In all cases, huge snowflakes are really aggregations of many thousands of individual flakes. Observers have thought that the big flakes attract individual flakes. (Pike, W.S.; "Unusually-Large Snowflakes," Journal of Meteorology, U.K., 13:3, 1988.)

Comment. Could electrostatic forces be involved?

Reference. The catalog Tornados, Dark Days, mentioned above, is described here.

Giant snowflakes in Montana Snowflakes 38cm in diameter fall in Montana. (From Tornados, Dark Days, etc).

From Science Frontiers #57, MAY-JUN 1988. 1988-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987