Measurements of crystal size have been made on seven firn cores drilled at sites covering a range of mean annual temperature from –12.6° to –52.5°C and a range of accumulation rate from 52 to 315 kg m−2 a−1. The sorting coefficient, which gives a measure of the dispersion of crystal sizes within a sample, shows an overall pattern when data from all cores are grouped together as a function of depth. The values are generally small near the surface, increasing to a maximum around 8 m depth, then decreasing but becoming more diffuse at greater depths. Below about 5 m depth, the crystal size increases at an essentially constant rate, which depends on temperature, but in the upper 5 or 7 m the size increases at 1.5 to 2 times this rate. The seasonal variation in temperature enhances the effective mean growth rate of crystals in the near-surface layers compared to conditions with a constant mean temperature and accounts for a part of that increase. But it is likely that vapour diffusion along strong vertical temperature gradients causes the greater part of the observed increase in growth rate. The dependence of crystal-growth rate on temperature is consistent with the Arrhenius-type relation found by other studies.