January 18, 2010
Radiation frost (also called hoar frost or hoarfrost) refers to the white ice crystals, loosely deposited on the ground or exposed objects, that form on cold clear nights when heat losses into the open skies cause objects to become colder than the surrounding air. A related effect is flood frost which occurs when air cooled by ground-level radiation losses travels downhill to form pockets of very cold air in depressions, valleys, and hollows. Hoar frost can form in these areas even when the air temperature a few feet above ground is well above freezing. Nonetheless the frost itself will be at or below the freezing temperature of water.
Hoar frost may have different names depending on where it forms. For example, air hoar is a deposit of hoar frost on objects above the surface, such as tree branches, plant stems, wires; surface hoar is formed by fernlike ice crystals directly deposited on snow, ice or already frozen surfaces; crevasse hoar consists in crystals that form in glacial crevasses where water vapour can accumulate under calm weather conditions; depth hoar refers to cup shaped, faceted crystals formed within dry snow, beneath the surface.
Which is it? I have no idea. I’m hoping one of the weather experts in the audience can tell us!