Friday, January 14, 2011

Light Recycling

Shadows of late afternoon stretch across the lower Mountain Lake, emptied last summer in preparation for restoration of the dam. Snow may be a chore to shovel, but it can otherwise lift the mood by recycling winter's meager allotment of light.

I learned the value of this the hard way, through years spent in southeastern Michigan, when the mind was slowly drained of color and light by an endless progression of gray clouds above the landscape's drab offerings of brown. By February, all memories of color stored from autumn had faded, and the mind grew desperate for spring green. After two weeks of gray, a patch of blue sky would come as a revelation, and occasional snows brought the gift of recycled light, making winter seem brighter in much the same way a wall of mirrors makes a room appear larger.

Snow cover, like the polar ice caps, glaciers and white roofs, also helps reflect solar radiation back out into space--a strategically important bit of reflection on a planet growing ever more absorptive of the sun's energy.

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