Frozen precipitation falls on a picnic table near Grizzly Peak Boulevard, about 1,000 feet above sea level in Claremont Canyon. Credit: Fabio Mori

Reports are coming in from residents in the Berkeley Hills of something white and cold falling from the sky.

Unless you happen to be at the top of Grizzly Peak, or at an elevation above 1600 feet, what you’re seeing is most likely neither snow nor hail, according to the National Weather Service meteorologist Sarah McCorkle. Instead, it’s probably graupel: small ice pellets that resemble Dippin’ Dots and are formed when snowflakes melt as they reach the surface and become coated with ice.

As of Thursday morning, temperatures in the Berkeley Hills were in the high 30s (around 40 in the warmer flats), according to the NWS. 

There’s still hope for snow-lovers. NWS meteorologist Brayden Murdock said the service has received some reports of sea-level snow down in Half Moon Bay, so he’s not ruling out the possibility that Berkeley residents in the flats might see a snowflake or two later in the afternoon, though it depends on air moisture and surface temperatures. The warm temperatures mean it’s unlikely that snow will meaningfully stick.

Chances of snow decrease Friday. 

The NWS doesn’t recommend driving when it’s snowing out due to potential black ice.
The last time it snowed in the Berkeley Hills was in 2019, when flakes landed in Tilden at elevations as low as 1,200 feet. The city’s largest snowstorm on record came on Dec. 19, 1922, according to the Berkeley Historical Society. Six inches fell that day in the flats, 8 inches in the North Berkeley hills and 2 feet at Grizzly Peak.

Residents posted photos and videos of the graupel on social media:

Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...