Diamond dust in Antarctica can be observed 316 days a year

Anita Durairaj

Diamond dust is a meteorological phenomenon involving a cloud composed of tiny ice crystals. When it precipitates, it falls in the form of ice crystals which are so tiny that they appear to be suspended in the air. In sunlight, the crystals are visible and can sparkle in the light like diamonds.

Diamond dust is mainly seen in polar and alpine regions. Thus, the phenomenon is mostly observed in Antarctica and the Arctic but can occur anywhere in the world where the winters are really cold.

For the formation of diamond dust, temperatures below 32 F are required or the ice will not be able to form. It has been described as being similar to fog in that the cloud of ice crystals forms at the surface. However, there are clear differences in that fog is a cloud of liquid water while diamond dust forms as ice. Also, fog reduces visibility but diamond dust does not have as much of an effect on visibility.

Crystals of diamond dust form as a well-defined hexagonal shape.

In Antarctica, diamond dust is common year-round and mostly occurs in the interior. It has been observed 316 days a year at Plateau Station in Antarctica. Although, diamond dust can precipitate for days, it will never accumulate like snow.

There are a few states in the U.S. where it can be cold enough to observe diamond dust such as Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Diamond dust can also be created artificially. Ski resorts blow ice crystals into the air from snow machines to form diamond dust.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.

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