Freezing Rain: What Is It And What Causes It?

freezing rain

When was the last time you discovered your car was covered with ice before going to work?

You guessed it right; I’m talking about freezing rain.

Ever wondered how freezing rain occurs? Well, you are not the only one curious about this kind of rain. You might have seen snowfall, sleet rain.

However, freezing rain is different from them. Not only is that the impacts it creates is not the same. Within a few seconds, you will see the supercool droplets transforming into ice just after touching the surface.

In this article, I will discuss everything about freezing rain. In addition to that, you will know what factors make it different from another kind of rains.

What is Freezing Rain?

Freezing rain is supercool droplets that freeze rapidly just after making contact with the ground. It creates several centimeters thick icy layer, which results in very unsafe conditions.

To freeze the droplets, it has to be dropped on the extremely cold surface.

The diameter of these droplets is more than 0.5 mm. If you see droplets being smaller than this, then most likely it was drizzled and widely separated.

Freezing rain falls like typical regular rain, but the difference is, it freezes when contacting with the ground and the droplets are supercool.

It is totally fine if you want to enjoy the typical type of rain outside of your house. But if you do the same with freezing rain, the results would be harmful.

What Causes It?

What if I tell you, freezing rain does not come all the way down to the earth’s surface in a liquid form? Would not you be amazed?

Let me explain.

It all starts with the cloud naturally. Snowflakes fall from the cloud and pass through the warm area in the air.

Due to the higher temperature, the warm air makes the snowflake melt into cold water.

After passing through the warm area in the air, the melted water then falls through a below freezing space for a short period.

That is the reason why the cold water does not get enough time to form as ice or snow again.

Now, it is show time. The water droplets contact with the extremely cold surface and turn into ice within a few seconds.

This is why you can even see the drops of water from trees turning into ice. However, this is not the only thing happens to the trees.

The droplets fall through sub-zero areas where the temperature is less than 0°C and just above the ground. That is the reason why the droplets become supercool.

Difference between Freezing Rain and Sleet Rain

Now, you are probably want to know the difference between freezing rain and sleet rain.

Both the types of rain may seem similar to you, but they do have differences between them as well.

Try to picture sleet falls as ice pellets and bounces off your roof, ground, and windshield.

Want to know how do they make it so far? Keep going.

The journey of sleet also starts with snowflakes. It melts during the time of passing through the warm area in the atmosphere.

Before falling on the ground, the melted water goes through extremely cold layer near the surface and refreezes into ice.

Finally, it touches the ground as solid ice, known as sleet.

On the other hand, even though freezing rain also starts with snowflakes, as I have mentioned before, it had to go through the depth of extreme cold layer which is very close to the surface.

So, it does not get time to refreeze again like sleet rain.

In a nutshell, the atmospheric condition determines the outcome, how the snowflakes will fall. Whether it would be freezing rain or sleet, depends on the thickness of the warm atmosphere.

The Consequences of Freezing Rain

Admit that; it is fun to play with ice, whether it is snowball or crystal clear ice. Same goes with the freezing rain.

The sound of cracking clear ice is soothing. But in most cases, freezing rain is quite damaging in a bigger picture.

Freezing rain covers up the parts of trees where its supercool droplets fall. As it rapidly becomes ice, due to the weight of ice, the affected trees snap off.

It is quite devastating for nature. And, even an entire forest can damage due to this sort of rain.

Although, it is fun to play with freezing rain and beautiful to see the ice-coated tree. Nonetheless, the condition is not friendly to your outdoor garden.

It would be very pathetic for you to see if overnight freezing rain damages most of your plants.

I’m dead sure; you are familiar with the incognito mode of your web browser. What it does is, it keeps all your browsing history private even from you.

The only time you are aware is while you are browsing by opening tabs.

Similarly, freezing rain hides the ice especially if it is on the road. That is why this sort of ice is called black ice.

You cannot see it usually but will experience once you go through it.

Supercool freezing rain makes the road slippery. It is treacherous for your drive and walking condition.

Driving in this condition is very dangerous, you might lose the control of your vehicle while trying to pull the break and turning to the right and left direction.

The problem is even more significant for the motorists. It is highly recommended not to ride bikes in this condition unless it is extremely necessary.

Motorists will not even know the presence of ice coated roads until they lose control of their vehicle.

In the airport, the aircrafts face difficulties to land and take off. On the ground, the situation becomes tough for planes to move.

The runways become almost useless due to the freezing rain. So, the aircraft movement severely disrupts.

In addition to that, power lines also become victim to it. The ice makes power cables to break off due to its overweight.

Furthermore, this is one of the reasons why power outages take place.

Also, if there is freezing rain throughout the whole night, in the morning, it would be difficult for you to open your car.

Which One Makes More Trouble

Unlike the freezing rain, sleet does not make that much trouble. It can be easily washed away, plowed, or washed out of the roads.

Sleet automatically falls off from the trees and power lines. So, it does not even add that much weight compared to freezing rain.

The only thing you might find disturbing is that you would be annoyed when sleet pelt on your face.

What Precautions Should You Take?

There is no real solution to this problem regarding snapping off the trees and power lines due to the weight of the ice. The power lines can be placed underground if a country is rich enough for the replacement.

One thing that you can do is to be careful while traveling. Please do not go out on a motorbike unless it is necessary.

Make sure your car’s tank has plenty of fuel. Check if the brakes are fully functioning and tires tread as well.


Even though freezing rain is a source of little enjoyment for some, its consequences are very harmful to the community.

If you experience this sort of rain in your area, make sure you move outside with great caution.

READ ALSO– Simple Guide on What to Wear in 40 Degree Weather?

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