This Is No Snow Job…..


While shoveling out the driveway after Mother Nature’s latest wintery onslaught, I pointed out a neat design the wind left on top of the snow.

My wife acknowledged my comment with a grunt as she labored to push snow out of her way.

This most-recent snow was a “drifter” with some parts of the yard nearly void of snow while other areas had up to 18 inches piled up.

It was fairly fluffy stuff so it wasn’t all that difficult to move.

Did you know that snow isn’t actually white?

Since each flake is a crystal and contain all aspects of light, they are clear but our eyes see the snow as white.

Each flake is formed as water vapor molecules form cloud droplets which condense and freeze on the surface of a seed crystal, often a speck of dust.

Yellow snow is a whole other matter!

Less than 0.1% of snowflakes have the ideal, 6-fold symetric shape.

A typical snowflake usually takes more than 45 minutes to form and then fall to earth.

Snow can be quite humbling if you consider these facts.

Each typical snow crystal weight about one millionth of a gram.

A single “puff” of your breath can melt away a single flake, but a whole bunch of snowflakes can nearly render us helpless.

Just the threat of a lot of these delecate crystals can send humans stampeding to the nearest grocery store to buy enough French toast supplies to feed most of the world.

Pretty impressive for a delicate, feathery ice crystal, typically displaying delicate 6-sided symetry.

One cubic foot of snow can contain one billion snow crystals.

At one time, we thought no two flakes were alike but with increased ability to see things close up, that’s not likely.

Snowflakes typically fall into one of 35 distinct categories.

How can something so delicate and fragile cause so much work to move from hard surfaces?

Cololectively, these “prissy pieces of precipitation” can get heavy,  based on the cloud temperatures, relative humidty and the number of them that fall on us.

When I was a geeky kid and a budding meteorologist, the rule of thumb was one inch of rain equals 10 inches of snow.

Today, the weather pros say typically 1 inch of rain equals 13 inches of snow.

However, with those “wet” snows (which make the best snowmen and snowballs),  it might be closer to 2 inches of snow per inch of rain.

When I was in Greenland, the air was quite dry so an inch of rain could convert to nearly 50 inches of snow

That’s why we often had “whiteouts” when blowing snow would severely limit visibility.

When “whiteout watches” were issued, most of us headed to the NCO club.

Wherever you were when a “whiteout” hit, you had to remain there until the conditions eased.

No better place to be trapped than somewhere with plentiful beer and snacks.

By the way, Sondrestromfjord, Greenland, where I was stationed,  receives about as much snow each winter as we do here in southcentral Indiana

The big difference very little of it melts out on the ice cap.

That’s why the actual land mass of Greenland is roughly a mile below sea level due to the weight of the snow and ice accumulated over the centuries.

Snowflake sizes can vary.

The most common flakes are the common, thin, plate-like crystals with 6 broad arms.

They’re typically the width of a hair to less than that of a penny.

The largest, non-aggregate snowflake can be 3-4 inches wide from tip-to tip.

That would be like a mircrowave pancake hitting the windshield!

Historians say the largest aggregate snowflake fell in Montana way back in January, 1887.

It was reported to be 15 inches wide

And, because snowflakes are composed of frozen water or ice, they can also be classified as a mineral.

Valdex, Alaska takes the honors as America’s snowiest city.

They average over 325 inches a year.

That’s pretty close to an inch a day!

And every one of our 50 states has recorded snowfall with some areas limited to mountain peaks.

Whenever you talk snow in the midwest, the Blizzard of 1978 always becomes part of the discussion.

That storm ravaged several states, dropping 30-40 inches of snow in some areas and drifts of 20+ feet were common thanks to wind gusts topping 100 miles per hour in some locales.

In my home town, an actual flatbed truck truck hauling steel was completely buried in huge drifts near the airport.

In some yards, you could see bare ground and then easily walk over the 8 foot backyard fence completely buried by drifts.

Weather forecasters in my home town had troubles determing the actual snowfall due to the serious drifting.

Lucky for us, most of the winter storms aren’t as bad as the Blizzard of ’78.

Most weather events get hyped a bit too much by the TV folks trying to justify their outlays for the latest radar units.

Then there’s the expansive “storm team” crews, all too quick to jump into their news vehicles and drive into the malestrom telling us to not do what they’re actually doing.

But that’s the Hollywood version of weather.


I just wait and see what actually happens and deal with the results.

Catch my drift?

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