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Here on the IOW we see our fair share of frosts during the colder half of the year, but there are a few different types of frost, each bringing their own hazards and sometimes beauty.

Please note that for a ground frost to develop we need mostly clear skies and light winds, although an air frost can develop under a whole variety of conditions.

For more information, please check out our frost descriptions below the map.

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What is a frost? Well the answer isn’t quite as simple as you may think, but in its most basic form, a frost is when the ground and/or air temperature reaches below freezing point at 0°C, leading to water vapour in the air to condense and freeze onto grass, cars and anything else that it may touch.

A Ground Frost is pretty much how it sounds, a frost that affects mostly the ground and also sometimes surfaces that are facing skyward.
For a ground frost to develop the winds must be light or calm, the sky must be clear or at least partly clear and the temperature needs to be below 4°C but above 0°C.
At night the ground loses heat due to it being radiated in to space, meaning that cold air can form close to the ground, and because cold air sinks and “pools”, it seeks out the lowest lying areas that it can, meaning that river valleys, low lying fields and sometimes even at the bottom of your own garden will see colder temperatures than the surrounding areas. Also flat surfaces just above ground level (especially thin metal and glass) will radiate their heat upwards and outwards meaning that even these objects can become colder than the surrounding air, so then a ground frost can form.

An Air Frost often develops much in the same way as a ground frost, but the temperature must be at or below 0°C.
It often shows itself as a white coating of ice on surfaces and objects and can look quite striking in sunlight.

A Dry Frost can form a few different ways. The most common is when we have a normal air frost but the air is exceptionally dry, and this prevents moisture from condensing and freezing onto surfaces and objects. Dry frosts can be hazardous due to the possibe formation of Black Ice.
This forms when the air temperature is at or below 0°C and it freezes areas of water on roads and walkways, most often in rural areas when there is field run-off. The problem is that due to the lack of white frost coating the ground and other objects, people often do not realise that there are freezing conditions so are often completely caught off guard when they hit a patch of ice.

Another way a dry frost can form is when we have a very cold airmass across the island (often from the east or northeast) and we see almost continuous temperatures at or below 0°C. There is quite often a fairly strong wind and sometimes cloudy conditions too, and despite the relatively normal appearance of the landscape, frost and freezing conditions may prevail for some time.

Hoar Frost and Rime is when we see temperatures below 0°C along with exceptionally humid and moist air, sometimes accompanied by mist and fog.
This type of frost produces a thick coating of ice that almost has a snow like appearance, however upon closer inspection you will see that most of the ice consists of small, thin needle like structures.