Around 6 am this past Saturday, it started snowing. It was gusting sideways and then I swear it was blowing up from the ground. A few hours later, the wind subsided and those slaphappy bursts were replaced with quiet, fluffy flakes that drifted down down down. It was beautiful.
It was Forrest’s first snow.
At four months old, he may not have realized the significance of the moment, but before I know it he’ll be leaping into drifts, begging to go sledding and asking, “What is snow?”
If that question had come on Saturday, I would have frozen in self-doubt and said with false confidence, “Well, son, when water is heated by the sun it evaporates and that water condenses and forms clouds and when it’s cold enough, something something snow. Want a cookie!?”
In other words, Forrest would have gotten a superficial at best, kind of sort of explanation. So, I decided to do a little research into what’s really going on so that when the time comes, and we live in New England so it will, I’ll be ready.
The short version is…
The stuff about evaporation is true; there must be moisture in the air to form snow. Once there’s moisture, “cloud droplets” form and when temperatures slip well below freezing (there’s HOT meteorological debate about what the exact temp must be), these cloud droplets crystalize and become “ice crystals.”
Voila! Snowflake, right? Not so fast, Frosty.
We’re nearing Valentine’s Day so in the name of love, a romantic metaphor: Imagine trying to create a corsage without anything to which to attach the flowers. How would that work? How would your carefully selected blooms stick together on your candlelit night of sweet nothings and proclamations??
Similarly, these ice crystals need a “condensation nucleus” in order to stick together and form a flake. Typically, a grain of sand or fleck of dirt floating around in the air will do the trick. The cluster of ice crystals can now huddle together around this nucleus, form a flake, and, thanks to its added weight, cascade our way.
Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Every time I dig a little deeper into one of Mama Nature’s wonders, I’m in awe. Here I sit, typing away in toasty comfort while just outside that window, amazing is happening.
Time to grab the babe and tromp around in it.
What is your favorite memory of snow?