About a week ago, the weather was predicting this HUGE snowstorm. People were talking about it for a week in advance, predicting feet of snow, closed schools, bitter cold, yadda yadda yadda.
I never really gave it much thought. It’s hard to think of a snowstorm when this is such a mild winter.
The day of the storm, I woke up and looked outside to see if the damage had started.
Not so much. A powdery dusting of snow. It wasn’t even snowing when I took that picture. By the time I got to work, the sun had come out and it was warming up. So much for that.
Out of curiosity, I checked the weather online and saw they were still predicting a huge storm, they just downgraded it from snow to rain. It didn’t start raining until the late afternoon. Let me tell you, rain is one weird occurrence in February in Minnesota. When I left work that evening, it was still raining, but it was still also about 35°, so it was pretty mild. It smelled like spring. I headed off for my evening plans. (Dinner and shopping with Elena).
When I finally got home for the day, about 9 pm, things had changed. The temps had dropped and the rain was starting to freeze. As a matter of fact, this was the mirror on my car as I pulled into the driveway (ignore the fact that it’s broken, please).
As you can see, frozen solid, with icicles dripping from the bottom. This does not bode well for morning driving. A few feet of snow is easier to drive in than an inch of ice.
When I woke up in the morning, I turned on my tv. I never use my tv. The last time it was turned on was to watch the ball drop on New Years Eve. But I excitedly flipped it on, hoping to see if I got a snow day. The ticker showing the closings was so long, I was worried I was going to be late for work trying to see if I had to go to work. It rolls alphabetically, I turned it on when it was in the Rs and I needed the Gs. It took 25 minutes to get back around! Meanwhile, practically every school in the state was shut down. I kept watching…and nothing. I checked my work email…nothing. Every school in our area was closed, but, we were open.
I hurriedly got ready and headed outside, to find that the world looked like this:
As you can see, it is not much more dramatic than the morning before. At some point in the night, the rain had turned to snow, but only barely, since the entire world was crusted with ice. Ice is actually particularly beautiful. The tree over my head looked like this:
Can you see the ice crystals formed on the branches? It looked cooler in person. How about a close up?
That is all solid ice.
I started my drive, and as I thought, it was treacherous. I almost rear ended a guy at the first stop sign. I had to drive into the bank on the shoulder to avoid it. I learned and avoided following anyone closely at all.
It is now March and while March can certainly be a snowy month, I’m starting to think we missed our chance at having a snowstorm this year. It’s going to be 55° today and the 10-day forecast has those numbers holding steady (through my birthday! – only 9 more days…)
That’s my short weather story. Not very exciting, I know, but the pictures are pretty. And, I wanted to take a moment to teach a little something as well. A while back, Kelly wrote this story on her blog. At the bottom, she appeals to her favorite librarian to tell her why the frost looks like that.
The answer is it is called hoarfrost. Hoar is just one of the three main types of frost. Hoarfrost is formed when the air is damp – containing water vapor – and the vapor touches an extremely cold surface, such as plants, trees, branches, even cars. The air must be very cold (around freezing or below) and when the water vapor hits the cold surface, say a branch, it freezes instantly, often forming gnarled, or spiky fingers. That is exactly what Kelly saw in her blog post.
That’s a photo of hoarfrost I snagged from Google Images.
For the record, the other two types of frost are rime frost and fern frost. Rime frost is created when a damp, icy wind blows over things and it leaves a trail of frost which makes things look like they are frosted or have icing around the edges. Rime frost looks more like this:
Just a bit of frosting around the edges. Rime frost also looks like this:
I think, in MN, this is the most common type of frost that we see, because rime frost can only occur in very cold temperatures, far, far colder than hoarfrost. But, this winter has been so mild, that’s why Kelly saw a terrific example of hoarfrost.
Lastly, the final example is fern frost. Fern frost forms on windows. It happens when dew drops (moisture in the air) hits a cold window. They freeze into ice. But then more moisture freezes on top of the ice and eventually they form what look like icy patterns on the windows. If you live in MN I know you’ve seen this.
That can form on your car, your windows in your house, really any smooth cold surface. (all frost pictures are from Google Images)
A couple other things to note. The term hoar comes from the Old English and is used as an adjective to describe something showing signs of old age. It comes from the frost making trees and plants look like they are elderly, with white hair.
Frost is always white because the crystals contain air.
According to folklore, Jack Frost creates frost by running his icy fingers over windows (and plants I suppose).
In order for frost to form, the surface (on which the frost will form) must be colder than the air. This is why frost forms most readily around cracks in sidewalks, walls and doors and also on the edges of windows. It also explains why a car will frost more readily than concrete or the ground itself.
Think that’s everything you ever wanted to know about frost? Me too. But, I promise, the next time I notice frost, I will inspect it closely and see if I can determine which type it is!
That is your cold weather edition of TYNKYNK. Thanks, Kel!