Difference Between Hail And Sleet

Hail is a type of precipitation that is entirely made of ice and can range from pea-sized to grapefruit-sized, while sleet is a mixture of rain and snow or ice pellets that is smaller than hailstones and appears translucent or whitish.

Difference Between Hail And Sleet

Weather plays a significant role in our daily lives. Although we have no control over it, we often try to make the best of the different types of weather that come our way. Some of the most exciting weather conditions are the ones we experience in winter. When winter arrives, we often hear people talking about hail and sleet. However, there is a lot of confusion surrounding these two weather conditions. Many people assume that they are the same thing. However, they are not. In this article, we will explore the difference between hail and sleet, and we will discuss how they form, their characteristics, and their dangers.

What is Hail?

Hail is a type of precipitation that falls from cumulonimbus clouds. Cumulonimbus clouds are massive, tall clouds that form when warm, moist air rises and cools. These clouds are often associated with thunderstorms and may cause heavy rains, strong winds, and lightning.

Hailstones form when supercooled water droplets freeze on contact with different nuclei such as dust particles, ice crystals, or snowflakes. The ice pellets then start to circulate within the cloud, and the process of building up starts to occur. The hailstone gets larger as it moves up and down inside the cloud, colliding with other supercooled water droplets and ice pellets in the process.

Hailstones have different shapes and sizes, ranging from small pea-sized spheres to large grapefruit-sized rocks. They are typically hard, dense, and white in color. Hailstones can cause incredible damage to buildings, crops, and cars, and they can even injure or kill animals or people who are struck by them.

What is Sleet?

Sleet is a type of precipitation that falls as a mixture of rain and snow or as small ice pellets. Sleet is often associated with winter weather and occurs when there is a temperature inversion. Temperature inversion occurs when the temperature on the ground is below freezing, but the temperature in the clouds is above freezing.

As a result, when snow or ice falls from the clouds, it partially melts and turns into liquid rain. The rain droplets then fall through the cold layer of air near the ground, causing them to refreeze and turn into sleet. Sleet can be heard as it hits the ground, and it often bounces off surfaces rather than sticking to them. Unlike hailstones, sleet pellets are small, round, and translucent.

Differences between Hail and Sleet

Now that we know what hail and sleet are, let us examine their differences.

Composition: Hailstones are entirely made of ice, while sleet consists of both ice and liquid water.

Uniformity: Hailstones are more irregular and vary in size and shape, while sleet pellets are uniform in shape and size.

Size: Hailstones can range from pea-sized up to grapefruit-sized balls, while sleet pellets are typically smaller than hailstones.

Color: Hailstones are typically white, while sleet appears translucent or whitish.

Formation: Hailstones form within thunderstorms, while sleet forms within temperature inversions.

Effects: Hailstones can cause significant damage to cars, buildings, and crops, while sleet is not dangerous but can create slippery surfaces.

Weather conditions: Hail is associated with severe thunderstorms, while sleet is associated with colder winter weather.


In general, hailstones are much more severe than sleet. While sleet is not particularly dangerous, it can create slippery surfaces. On the other hand, hailstones can be incredibly destructive, and people should avoid exposure when a hailstorm is happening. Understanding the difference between hail and sleet is essential for anyone interested in weather phenomena. Knowing these differences will enable people to discuss various weather conditions more accurately and avoid confusion. With this knowledge, it will be easier to understand which weather forecast to follow in preparing for different types of weather conditions.