We all know the dangers of ice and what damage it can do. Something a lot of us aren’t so clued up on is the different types of ice and how they come about. Here we tell you about the different types of ice you’ll come across this winter and what happened to create them!


We’ve all seen it – and felt it – but what is hail? Hail originates as small ice particles or frozen raindrops that are caught up in an updraught of air within a cumulonimbus cloud. As they ascend, they gather water on their surface and expand. Their size depends on the amount of water in the cloud and how strong the updraught is.

Over time, these pieces become too heavy to be supported by the updraught and fall down. The average hailstone is less than 25mm in diameter. However, they have been known to reach 150mm in diameter. With hailstones this size, there’s potential for extensive damage.

Ice Pellets

Forming when snowflakes begin to melt as they drop from clouds, ice pellets then fall through sub-freezing air where they re-freeze. Often the snow will partially melt and drops down as snow encased in a thin layer of ice.

Ice pellets, typically, are smaller than hailstones and bounce when they hit the ground. When ice pellets fall, the shower isn’t usually very long. However, the density of the ice pellets can be similar to that of snow.

Black Ice

Black ice is essentially clear ice which forms on roads and pathways. The term ‘black ice’ derives from its transparent appearance which means the surface can be seen through it. This is why black ice is so dangerous and causes accidents frequently.

Glaze (clear ice)

Clear ice, or glaze ice as it’s also known, forms when rain lands on a cold surface. There are two ways which it can be formed:

  • When supercooled rain hits the ground
  • When non-supercooled liquid comes into contact within a surface that is considerably colder than 0 °

Glaze is often mistaken for a wet surface which leads to accidents on the roads. When clear ice gains thickness and has been on a surface for a significant amount of time it can cause damage in a multitude of ways. For example the  extra weight can cause tree branches to break, telephone wires to break, and cause damage on train lines and boats.