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Just based on my previous experiences a wetter snow, in general, has larger flakes. Some online sources say that raindrops do have a maximum size before they start to break apart when surface tension can no longer withstand air resistance, however the maximum size of a snowflake is less defined (1&2). One source also states that light winds and a wetter snow is more conducive to larger flakes because the light wind helps keep them from breaking into pieces, and the additional moisture creates a film which helps the flakes stick together (2).

I understand that it may be difficult to measure a snowflake before it melts and that may be why the only non-confirmed size that I have found is from the 2014 Guinness Book of World Records of an eye witness account in 1887 of a snowflake 15" wide by 18" deep (3).

So my question is twofold:

  • Is there a theoretical limit to how large a single snowflake can be?
  • If there is a reliable way to measure snowflakes, what is the largest snowflake ever measured?

Sources:

  1. http://www.theweatherprediction.com/habyhints/261/

  2. https://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/32e2nf/what_is_the_maximum_size_of_a_raindrop/?st=jhi2ljz8&sh=25942d8e

  3. https://www.reference.com/science/big-can-snowflakes-a119e8a009c4d4ac

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  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't say that it is a singe flake if two flakes stick together. $\endgroup$ – Communisty May 23 '18 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with that. I believe it would need to have the classic hexagonal shape to be considered one snowflake. I'm not sure if two snowflakes could combine to make one larger single hexagonal snowflake. $\endgroup$ – user11318 May 23 '18 at 10:21
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According to Caltech physics professor Kenneth G. Libbrecht's site SnowCrystals.com

This monster is, to my knowledge, the largest snow crystal ever photographed. It measures 10.1 mm (0.4 inches) from tip to tip (averaged over the three axes). ... Note that this is a snow crystal: a single crystal of ice ... Larger snowflakes have been reported, but those were puffballs made of huge numbers of individual snow crystals stuck together. During very calm conditions, these puffballs can grow into pancake-shaped agglomerations as large as a dinner plate

He has a paper Physical Dynamics of Ice Crystal Growth, but I don't see any discussion of theoretical maximum sizes of crystals or agglomerations.

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