Ice crystals are solid ice exhibiting atomic ordering on various length scales and include hexagonal columns, hexagonal plates, dendritic crystals, and diamond dust. The highly symmetric shapes are due to depositional growth, namely, direct deposition of water vapour onto the ice crystal. Depending on environmental temperature and humidity, ice crystals can develop from the initial hexagonal prism into numerous symmetric shapes. Possible shapes for ice crystals are columns, needles, plates and dendrites. If the crystal migrates into regions with different environmental conditions, the growth pattern may change, and the final crystal may show mixed patterns. An example are capped columns. Ice crystals tend to fall with their major axis aligned along the horizontal, and are thus visible in polarimetric weather radar signatures with enhanced (positive) differential reflectivity values. Electrification of ice crystals can induce alignments different from the horizontal. Electrified ice crystals are also well detectable by polarimetric weather radars.
Ice clouds are composed of ice crystals, the most notable being cirrus clouds and ice fog. The slight whitening of a clear blue sky caused by ice crystals high in the troposphere can be a sign that a weather front (and rain) is approaching, as moist air is carried to high levels and freezes to ice crystals.
Winter (// WIN-tər) is the coldest season of the year in temperate climates, between autumn and spring. It is caused by the axis of the Earth in the respective hemisphere being oriented away from the Sun. Different cultures define different dates as the start of winter, and some use a definition based on weather, but when it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and vice versa. In many regions, winter is associated with snow and freezing temperatures. At the winter solstice, the days are shortest and the nights are longest, with days lengthening as the season progresses after the solstice.