As the snow falls outside it is often hard to distinguish one snowflake from another. Yet each and every snowflake is unique. Similar to how every human being is slightly different from all others, snowflakes are all slightly different shapes and sizes.
Snowflakes are sometimes referred to as “snow crystals” and they form in the clouds when the temperature is underneath the freezing point (32 degrees). When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, water droplets turn into small ice particles which then drop from the clouds. As the ice crystal descends it bumps into others and knocks off enough ice to become a dainty snowflake. In fact, it is this very process of bumping into other snowflakes (along with the tendency to melt and refreeze) that results in their complex shape.
Although snowflakes are all different, they always have six sides and they can always be categorized into six main types, plate (flat), column, stars, dendrite (lacy, needle, and capped column. When it is extremely cold the snow is very fine and powdery and snowflakes become quite simple in design, usually needle or rod shaped. When the temperature is near to freezing point, snowflakes become much larger and much more complex in design.
Most snowflakes are quite small. However, in Montana in January 1887 a snowflake was found that was 14 inches wide and 7 inches thick! To date, that is the largest snowflake on record.