Monday, November 22, 2010

It's snowing

It's snowing like mad out and very windy. In my backyard, the periodic wind gusts whip up the snowflakes into whirls and eddies producing momentary white outs. Fortunately, I don't have to go anywhere today. It doesn't snow often where I live, usually it remains green throughout the year. When it does snow it's like magic to me, the landscape is transformed from green to white like a idyllic Christmas card. The world seems hushed and new.

Today, the snow flakes are medium in size – not like our usual massive wet flakes that vanish once they hit the ground, or like the tiny prairie snowflakes that can be swept away with a broom. Each snowflake is a wonder of sharp-edged geometry. I don't know if each snowflake is truly unique or not – but I accept that it could be true. What I do know is that snow is just water and knowing this doesn't take away from the magic of a snow storm (if I'm inside).

Snow is just water – school children know this (hopefully, they also know about the perils of yellow snow). Winter outdoor survival manuals warn against eating snow directly only because it is cold – they just want you to melt it first.

I found a paper from 1673 on 'some observations touching the nature of snow' by N. Grew in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. He questions how snowflakes form and their geometry. He deduces that snowflakes come from icicles that form inside snow clouds. As they descend they thaw a bit, bump together and break apart eventually becoming the snowflakes we know.

For our modern view of how snowflakes form check out this.

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