Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow, snow and more snow


I have been reading about snow and wanted to share a couple of things. When you read what I have to say you will probably say, “well, that makes sense” but the thing is, did you ever really think about it before? I never have.

The first snow we had of the season had really big snowflakes and I neglected to take photos of them. This most recent storm slowed me down and I took photos. The flakes were much smaller but the air was colder so they lasted longer. Still snowflakes have a very short life span and begin their destruction almost the minute they form. I learned that they can go through three stages of metamorphism. The first one is “destructive metamorphism” when the flake begins to melt ever so slightly and form rounded grains that eventually all become the same size in a snow pack. The space between each one become smaller and the density of the pack increases. I can see that happening as the snow on my deck begins to sink lower and lower. What was once 24 inches is now 17, after one day.


The second phase is “constructive metamorphism”. The snow closest to the ground begins to melt because the ground is warmer than the snow. As it melts the vapor moves up and comes in contact with the cold snow and freezes again, this time in the form of ice crystals known as “depth hoar”. As this happens more free space is made under the snow pack and small mammals can move about under the snow. So from the critter point of view as they walk on the ground their ceiling is made up of tiny ice crystals and what we see from above is snow on the ground. This is great for them on a small scale but on a big scale it causes avalanches because the snow is just sort of floating above the ground and is very unstable.

The third stage is “melt metamorphism” and I can hear that happening as the water begins to drip off my roof.

Have you ever wondered why there is no snow next to trees or the snow looks like it is receding away from trees? I never did but when I read about it, I was like, “go figure, who knew”.

The explanation is in the tree or I should say the color of the tree. The tree absorbs incoming solar radiation, the temperature of their surfaces is raised, and the tree then emits more energy at longer wavelengths and melts the snow closest to them. And viola! A ring around the tree.


So there you have it. But you know the best part about snow is playing in it. Sledding, skiing, and making snow angels and snowmen.


Have a jolly holiday.

Vist more blogs featuring water at Watery Wednesday.

18 comments:

~Cheryl said...

I do have to admit that I have never given this any thought. How very interesting! I will continue to enjoy the snow, but with renewed awe. Thanks!

Dorothy said...

Interesting! Love the Snowman!

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: said...

Great post - fascinating stuff! I wish I could see the snow from the perspective of a mole or other small critter, from inside the snow. Just for a few minutes. Then I'd want boots, hat and mittens again.

Gaelyn said...

You've given me a whole new way to look at snow. Which fortunately we don't have, yet. Suppose to snow tonight. Interesting and really nice macro of the snow flakes.

Denise said...

That is the most fascinating explanation of snow I have ever read. I love learning stuff like this. Thanks for sharing it. I am going to bookmark your post so that I can come back and read it again to let it sink in.

squirrel said...

Cheryl, I agree there are so many thing that we take for granted and just pass on by, it is eye opening to stop and learn for a moment.

Dorothy, Thanks I love snowmen and snowwomen.

Woodswoman, I am going to try to slice a piece of our snow and try to take a photo of that effect. It makes me wonder just what is crawling around down there.

Denise,I learn all of that from a book by Oeter J. Marchand -- Life in the Cold: An Introduction to Winter Ecology. It is very scientific and I only understood a tiny bit but it is facinating.

Leora said...

I enjoyed your explanation of the warmth by the tree. And the little diagrams. And I agree that snowman building is terrific! I love a good snow storm.

J Bar said...

Love your snowman.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

ewok1993 said...

That snowman is pretty cool. Happy Holidays.

MyMaracas said...

I never understood how small animals could be under the snow. Now I know. Thanks for the lesson!

Love the snowman, too.

Carolyn Ford said...

Awesome lesson here! But, that snowman is one handsome dude! I love his hat! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

eileeninmd said...

I love your snowman! Great photo.

Anonymous said...

You confirmed my suspicion for the reason that snow recedes from the tree trunk. It will be fun to do an experiment the next time we get snow....wrap a white sheet around the lower part of the tree and see how it compares to the other trees.
Bruni

lazyclick said...

Very informative. The snowman is fantastic.

chubskulit said...

I love the snowflakes and snow man. Following your blog now.

Japan Sea.. Merry Christmas!

Wanda said...

That is the most beautiful snowman I have ever seen...honest!
Have a Joyful Christmas Cheryl!

storyteller said...

Wonderful post filled with marvelous winter photos and facts I didn't know about snow ... thanks for sharing both. Love the closeups of the different kinds of snowflakes and the snowman too ;-)
Hugs and blessings,
My Watery Wednesday

Lorac said...

As you say "Who knew?" Great post and pics.