Bondi Resort Blog

Come on into our Blog for a look at the wonderful world we've got to share! With over 240 hectares (600 acres) of wilderness woodlands surrounding the resort, just ten minutes from Algonquin Park, we feature over 400 metres (1200’) of waterfront and beach; boat rentals; summer hiking trails winding through fields and woods; 20 km. of groomed cross country ski trails and snowshoeing in winter; access to nearby snowmobile trails for sledders, and a toboggan hill for the young at heart.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March -- in like a Snow Leopard!

 We've all heard the weather lore, If March comes in like a Lion, it goes out like a Lamb.

Those old sayings stuck around because there was a lot of truth behind them (at least in the days before global warming caused climate change... nowadays, it seems many bets are off the table)

This March came roaring in. Not so much a lion as a snow leopard.  While it poured rain to the south of us, here we got snow. Lots of snow.

The old adage was that the Innuit had 27 different words for snow. More than likely -- since they live so closely with it. The English language has plenty of words for it, too. Some you can even put in print in polite company.

Tim, from the Algonquin Snowmobile Club, describes dirty, icy snow, the kind you don't want to sled over, as Snirt. A cross between Snow and Dirt.
Then there's powder, the snow that Mike lives to ski through out at Whistler.

Sleet and ice are more formally classed as subcategories of graupel.  Then there's fluffy snow, wet snow, crusty snow, snowman snow, corn snow (or spring snow). crystalline, hail. The list goes on.  Yesterday, I think we got all of it, as conditions changed so quickly.

If you want to get up close and personal with the individual flakes that make up that drift in the driveway, you'll find an astonishing variety there as well.  Yes, they are all six-sided, but it pretty much stops there when it comes to architecture. The Chinese had figured out that snowflakes are hexagons way back in the second century A.D.  We also know that no two are exactly alike.

So, while moving the snow from here to there, you might like to ponder that, and wonder why.  The shape of snowflakes depends first on the water molecule itself -- two hydrogen, one oxygen, stick 'em together and Bob's your Uncle, you've got a water molecule.  When they are liquid, the H2O molecules vibrate and slide past each other, colliding and recoiling, with virtualy no space between them.  When the temperature drops low enough, this jostling gets disrupted by the electrical forces acting on the individual molecules, and then they all snap into fixed positions relative to each other. That's called freezing.

Freezing immobilizes the water molecule, but it also forces them to move apart and take an arm's length position with respect to each other. (go ahead, imagine these teensy atoms with little arms, it helps)  X-rays of ice crystals reveal a
remarkable repeating pattern of hexagons: six water molecules at each corner, bonded to other water molecules beside, above and below.  At the micro level, a mass of ice crystals is like a vast honeycomb. Because that is the most efficient way in nature to 'stack' things together closely.

Under the right circumstances of moisture and temperature, a crystal starts to grow in the atmosphere by latching onto a microscopic dust particle, adding water molecules to its edges, and always peserving the underlying hexagonal organization. By the time it's big enough to see, you have a snowflake.

These can be anything from delicate feathery six-fingered stars to blunt six-sided shields, or even pillars with hexagonal caps on both ends. Their shapes reflect their histories -- they are 'letters from the sky.'

As temperature and humidity change, the way the snow crystals grow changes too. (the feathery Christmas card flakes develop only in very wet air at about -14 degrees C., for example)  Wind carrying the flakes up and down in the clouds produce changes in temperature and humidity along the way.  It's those resulting tiny differences in temperature ar numbers of water molecules along the way that cause the miniscule differences that produce unique flakes. Each snowflake contains something like 1018th (sorry, can't get this to go to the top of the number...) molecules of water, which can be arranged many different ways. For each falling flake, there are more than a million options when water molecules have a choice of more than one place to attach.   Statistically, this mkes the number of possible flake shapes incredibly huge, trillions of trillions of time greater than the total number of flakes that have ever fallen.  No two can be identical, becasue even if they followed exactly the same path, they can't share exactly the same time and place. The first flake would absorb molecules that then would be unavailable for the second flake.

1n 1988, Nancy Knight was documenting snowflakes for the National Center for Atmospheric Research and found two identical snowflakes of the hollow column type. But Kenneth Libbrecht, Caltech physics professor and snowflake expert said they may appear alike but under the atomic level, you’ll find them entirely different. Their water molecule numbers and layouts of the molecules will be different.

You might like to consider that...  while relocating the snow -- Brian had to resort to the big tractor: this snow was just too heavy and wet for the truck plow.  Or, like Taffy, you might like to test the theory, and try to find two flakes the same...

And you can take comfort from the old weather adage. The end of March should be lamb-like, perfect for spring skiing, lake skating, and welcoming back the beginnings of Spring.

1 comment:

  1. We found the snow a bit heavy as the underlayer was slush. But it is sent off to the side of the road. Looking forward to swimming and your sandy beach in the summer!