Nature Notebook – Tsuzumi Snowflake Crystals

The recent snowstorm afforded local photographer Joshua Nowicki the opportunity to capture images of snow crystals. The weather system underwent multiple temperature shifts, producing unusual capped column crystals.

Snow crystals start tiny and “grow” by adding more water molecules to the edges. The temperature and the amount of moisture within the cloud determine the shape of the edges. Joshua’s crystal initially formed as a column when the temperature was 21°F. As the column grew, it dropped into a colder air layer or the original temperature dropped to 5°F. Plate crystals form in these conditions. The column growth shifted to plate growth.

Japanese physicist Ukichiro Nakaya classified snowflakes based upon their forms. He named this crystal after a double-side Japanese drum. Thus…the Tsuzumi crystal.

Joshua caught the snowflakes on a scarf. He used a telephoto lens with another telephoto lens taped backward in front of it to take the photograph…a much simpler set-up than Wilson Bentley used many years ago for his famous snowflake photos.