Monday, December 16, 2013

A Cold, Snowy December

 We're not used to this, not after last winter. December 2012 was +8.2° to normal. Where deviations are usually measured in tenths of a degree, that was a whopping change. This year, with half the month already recorded, we are running -0.9° to normal. In other words, we're more than nine degrees colder than last December.

 With regular nighttime snows and school closings, this month seems more like winter. And yet it is still autumn for another five days.

 Here's a visual look at the past week ...

 Last Tuesday (December 10) the arbor vitae outside my living room window developed masses of icicles. The rain gutter overhead had been melting snow and dropping an overhanging drift so that it coated this shrub with ice. Overnight we had added another 2" of snow.

 Late in the day, with the low sun slanting across the snow, I took this photograph of the wind-drifted snow, blue tinged by the sky, pink tinged by the setting sun. A few dark spots - last year's maple seeds - mar the surface along with the wind. A flat, blank surface would be a canvas unpainted; imperfection is often what gives the world interest.

 The following day (December 11) I noticed the north-facing window in Mom's bedroom beginning to take on crystals of ice as is its habit in the coldest weather. We rose above freezing during the day and part of the ice returned to droplets of liquid water.

 A day later (December 12) and Jack Frost got to serious work on the same spot. It dipped to 2° the night before (surely the coldest we've been in years) and the liquid water soon turned to feathery crystals of ice. I always marvel at the varied patterns. What sets the lines in motion, who determines where they cross? Why does a delicate feather sprout here? And why is this area devoid of ice entirely?

 This morning (December 16) we find that school is on a two hour delay and the road remains quiet at 9 a.m. I watched a snow plow work the road while I brushed my teeth (leaving the bathroom light turned off so I could stand at the second floor window and watch), spreading salt behind it. This view is out our back door, facing southwest. I have dug a small path to the garage, one to the driveway so I can get the mail when it comes, another to the rain gauge so I could measure the snow (the metal rain gauge is the small gray tube, centered in the distance).

 Speaking of the mail, the mailbox stands nearest the road and I always cringe when a plow passes it, throwing plumes of heavy snow against it. Two years ago our mailbox was destroyed by a passing snow plow. If it happens this year, I will ask Jackson Township to replace it.

 It is a good day to stay in. It's still snowing lightly at 9:15 a.m. and I've heard little traffic pass the house. It's just 25°. The rest of the week promises moderating temperatures. Tomorrow should climb above freezing and Friday's forecast calls for a temperature into the mid-50's. It'll be a nice respite from December's so-far cold and snow.

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