Scientists Say: Rime ice

This is a coating of tiny ice crystals that gather when water freezes rapidly on a surface


This tree has a coating of rime ice.

Richardfabi/Wikimedia Commons

Rime ice (noun, “R-EYE-M ice”)

This is a coating of tiny ice crystals you might see coating a tree or car in winter. Rime ice forms when water droplets in a cloud, fog or mist freeze very quickly onto a surface. This type of ice can be very pretty. But sometimes it can be dangerous. Rime ice can form on the wings of an airplane when it flies through very cold clouds. It can make the plane heavier and harder to fly. It can even damage propellers and engines.

In a sentence

Big snowstorms can produce snowflakes that are covered in rime frost, making them like tiny hailstones.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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