Snow-like droplets appeared in the Michigan sky on Friday, Feb. 3, but the spectacle wasn’t quite the typical snow you may be used to.
Instead, the rare phenomenon referred to as “diamond dust” made the cloudless sky sparkle, shown in video from the U.S. National Weather Service office in Gaylord, Michigan.
So what is diamond dust and how does it happen?
Also referred to as “Mother Nature’s tinsel,” diamond dust can be seen in the sky even when there are no clouds, according to the Farmers’ Almanac.
“Normally, air temperatures get colder as you travel from ground level up to higher altitudes, but with inversion, this is flipped—cold air sits near the surface with warmer air above it,” the Farmers’ Almanac said. “This weather setup makes it possible for diamond dust to form because the warmer air contains more water vapor. As this warmer, moister air mixes with the colder air below it, its water vapor is carried into the cold air.”
The result is the formation of tiny “ice crystals,” which can make the sky sparkle.
The crystals are so small that they often “appear to be suspended in the air,” according to the World Meteorological Organization.
Most common in Antarctica and the Arctic, diamond dust can also occur in other places that get freezing temperatures, like Michigan.
“Diamond dust forms directly as a crystalline piece of ice,” said The Weather Guys at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “The shape of these ice crystals is similar to tiny, thin, six-sided pencils. The ice crystals are small and few in number so diamond dust is sometimes hard to see.”
The phenomenon happens when temperatures drop between 32 to negative 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
Gaylord is in northern Michigan, about 60 miles northeast of Traverse City.