Softer than hail; harder than snow: What is graupel?

Their formation is a bit complicated -- when supercooled water droplets that are actually below 32 degrees, freeze onto a snow crystal,

Has a storm passed by, and in the aftermath, you peek outside to find the strangest looking hail you've ever seen? It looks like hail, but unlike actual hail, these balls of ice are soft to the touch -- you can easily squish them between your fingers. 

What gives?

That precipitation is called graupel, or more informally, snow pellets. (Or really informally: "Falling Dipping Dots.")

Their formation is a bit complicated -- when supercooled water droplets that are actually below 32 degrees freeze onto a snow crystal, NOAA says

The "riming" process makes a bit of a tiny growing snowball, and they fall to the ground as soft hail or graupel. Get enough of it, and it can coat the ground to mimic a snowfall.

They are particularly fragile and generally disintegrate when handled, NOAA says. 

In most cases, graupel needs it to be 45 degrees or cooler at the surface to form.

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