Showing posts with label snow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label snow. Show all posts

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Graupel--A Special Form of Snow

All snow is special. Like children, except more numerous and lower maintenance, no two snowflakes are the same. As we know, snow that falls in Princeton's coveted 08540 zip code is extra special, and on the last day of January, there fell a particularly special kind of Principitation. Instead of flakes, the snow looked more like small beads of styrofoam.

When it fell one day two years ago, thinking it needed a name, I coined what seemed like a new term: snubbins. A recent google search, however, revealed that the word "snubbins" is sometimes used to refer to medium sized breasts. Who knew?

A less conflicted name came out of the blue during a trip to the Whole Earth Center, when longtime employee Bill excitedly showed me a printout from Wikipedia, describing this special snow as "graupel". To quote: "Graupel, also called soft hail or snow pellets, is precipitation that forms when supercooled droplets of water are collected and freeze on falling snowflakes, forming 2–5 mm balls of rime." These supercooled droplets, suspended high in the air and still liquid down to -40 F, collect and freeze around the snowflakes as they fall towards earth. The behavior of supercooled water came up in another recent post admiring the patterns the minipond water makes when it freezes.

In this photo of the graupel collected on our backyard fillable/spillable minipond, or mini-rink this time of year, you can see their shape. In the middle of the photo there's a snowflake still visible, only partly covered in rime.

In this photo, some of the graupel takes the shape of corn kernels.

Favorites from the archive:

Principitation: Coins and defines useful terms for various kinds of snow and snowy objects, e.g. snirt, snoodle, kerfluffle, and we-cicles (plural of i-cycles).

Snowbound Language: A Victor Borgesque story about what happens when snow blankets the english language.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Winter Has Been Downsized

Like the incredible shrinking chocolates that cost the same but come in smaller packages, winter isn't exactly filling its three month package like it used to. This Snow Wall-E was looking pretty lonely on Hawthorn, before it too succumbed to the browns and grays of mild weather.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

When Snowmen Take Over the World

When snowmen take over the world, they will lounge comfortably on the patio in snow-cushioned chairs, munching on snowburgers.

Having had their fill, they will venture out to mend snowfences,

practice up for the next game of snowlax,

take a dip in the snow-lined minipond, ever so briefly so as not to melt,

and, when there is sno more for a snowman to do, take a snooze and dream of snowstorms to come.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Snow Forts and Memories

On a recent walk around the block, I encountered three boys building a complex of snow forts in the front yard. My first thought was, "You mean kids still build snow forts?" It brought back memories of all the dramas we superimposed on the landscape I ranged over as a kid.

Within those protective walls, we'd have stacks of snowballs ready to hurl at any who dared attack. My free-range childhood territory included windswept fields where the observatory's facilities crews would erect snowfences to keep snow from blowing over the sidewalks. Snow would gather in drifts five feet deep on the lee side of the fences, perfect for excavating and augmenting, following much the same impulse as the gophers that were hibernating in the ground below.

Like hunting, which I really enjoyed until I actually killed something, our building of the snowy equivalent of a Maginot Line was fun until war actually broke out. There was one traumatic day when our fort complex was attacked, by a couple college students who penetrated the flurry of snowballs and proceeded to destroy our carefully crafted fort. Those were some big bullies.

Here was the other scene during the walk around the block that brought back memories. Start with a small clump of snow, push it across the grass, gathering snow with each revolution. When the snowball was too big to budge any further, we knew where the snowman or the fort would stand. There's a metaphor in there somewhere, that we are snowballs, making tracks through time, experiences sticking to us as we go, gaining character, or at least characteristics, until we find ourselves outstanding, or at least out standing, in a field.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Second Snow

Snow finally arrived last night, having been loathe to return ever since its much criticized, heavy footed miscue back in October. My daughter, deciding the snow was insufficient for sledding, chose instead to send her little people on an exhilarating slide off the rooftop, aided by a broom handle.
Later on, some paddleboating in snow? What were they thinking? At least it got them outdoors.

This seemed much more sensible--some restful cloudbathing after their brief but exciting sledding venture, and a bit of stretching. Many a time have I thought there should be a designated "Conspicuous Stretching Zone" in the park, where parents wishing to spend their time more productively could feel permitted to assume various self-improving poses, free of any sense of awkwardness.

I didn't see how this contraption fit into the narrative. There was no enemy castle in sight, into which to hurl plague-infested pigs. Perhaps they thought it would be a good way to get back to the second floor.
As the day's light faded, a couple hardy northerners, dreaming of winters past, looked longingly out across the lake, wondering when the ice will be thick enough to skate on.