We had a brief bout of freezing rain today, but the temperature was rising rather than falling so it wasn't too serious. Thin ice on branches and a few inch-long icicles have all melted now, 4 hours later. Another illustration of our fickle up-and-down spring weather.
Seasons in the Valley + Furry Gnome's Adventures
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Friday, March 24, 2023
Spring is fickle!
Weather in this early spring is definitely fickle! It is sunny and warm one day and we get snow the next, sometimes lots of snow. Looking back through old photos I came across this pair of pictures I really like that says it exactly. These are taken at our old house, on the first day of spring and the day after that year. They are both panoramas, which distorts the perspective slightly toward the outside edges.
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
The Four Springs We Enjoy Here
Monday was the first 'official' day of spring and I wondered what to write. But here it seems far too artificial a date to choose for spring 'arriving'. If you look it up, Mar. 20th or 21st of March is astronomical spring, when the March equinox occurs, though there aren't many (any?) signs of green outside yet. Weather forecasters, who always want to be different, pick March 1st as meteorological spring, which I understand, but can't see the value in.
So I started back through some of my blog posts over the past 10 years to see what and when I had written about spring. And here's what I think.
Late March and April is sort of hydrological spring, or snowmelt spring. And I found lots of evidence of snowmelt, temporary ponds and roaring waterfalls for evidence.
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
The Cheerio Disaster!
It happened after breakfast, when I thought I might try and be helpful. We had almost finished the box of Cheerios so I thought I'd get the next one open and ready for tomorrow. Little did I think I'd make a mess of it. I got the box open ok, but then the box tipped forward and half the Cheerios spilled out onto the floor! What a mess, and I was helpless.
Friday, March 17, 2023
Sunny Warm Day
It was an astonishingly warm sunny day here yesterday, just enough to remind me that spring is indeed coming - though today it is raining. I got outside pronto and rode up and down our street 3 times, and even went around another block once. Then I sat in the sun and enjoyed the warmth, can you believe it! It reached 9°C!
Thursday, March 16, 2023
I'm Fascinated with How Snow Actually Melts
Perhaps it's just that I have lots of time to stare out the window, but I'm fascinated by how snow disappears around here without my seeing much of a 'melt'. It's a partly sunny day here, and 6°C, but I don't see any snow melting into water and running down the edge of the road. And yet the patches of green in our front yard keep getting bigger, so the snow is going somewhere.
The first place that snow goes is probably down into the soil. Snow in our front yard is 'melting' from the top down. Surface crystals melt and the structure of the snow changes, the water trickling down inside the snowpack until it reaches the soil. The snowpack thus becomes thinner and denser. Of course freezing temperatures at night refreeze the snowpack, leaving it crunchy underfoot the next morning.
At least some of the melting snow that goes straight down into the soil will recharge the groundwater, and I can be sure that at least a few molecules of that water will seep sideways and recharge the stream that flows 200 yards away. In fact much of the higher stream level that we see in the spring may come from groundwater seepage rather than surface run-off.
But snow is disappearing the opposite direction as well, 'sublimating' directly into the air.
This is one of the few diagrams of the water cycle I've found that actually shows 'sublimation'. It's the change of solids into a gas directly, such as the change of snow crystals into water vapour directly. You can see it on an early morning drive in the right atmospheric conditions, in the form of water vapour or fog hovering over the fields.
Scientists have not found an easy way to measure sublimation, and it's invisible so that's why you probably don't think of it much. One place you can see it is in chinook winds on the prairies. Chinook winds come in off the Pacific, dump all their moisture on the west side of the coast mountains and then descend onto the prairies (think Calgary) hungry for moisture. They just sunk up the snow as fast as they can go.
Scientists don't actually know how much sublimation contributes to snow disappearance, but by my own observations and reading during a typical spring at least half the snow 'melting' will be due to sublimation rather than the typical 'melt'. So this spring watch for those days when the snow just seems to vanish and see if you don't agree with me.
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
The Ides of March
We're in the middle of four important dates in the spring calendar. Today is the Ides of March, yesterday was Pi Day, tomorrow is St. Urho's Day, and Friday is green beer day! It's a worth a moment to remember what these days are all about.
Ides of March
The Ideas of March (a beautiful peaceful sunny day here) is best known from the ancient Roman calendar, when the first day of March marked the new year. The middle of the month in that calendar marked the full moon, so March 15th was the first full moon. In four months of the year the full moon was on the 15th day; in the other months it was on the 13th day. Nothing foreboding about all that.
But in 44 BC Julius Caesar had just been elected Emperor for life, and the upper classes were a little peeved. When Caesar showed up for the Roman Senate meeting he was stabbed repeatedly. According to myth a soothsayer had warned him with the words 'Beware the Idea of March'. Thus the 'Ides of March' has held a certain ominous meaning.
But it's really due to Shakespeare that we remember the phrase. After all few of us know much ancient Roman history, but almost all of us studied Shakespeare's plays (for better or worse). In his play 'Julius Caesar' Shakespeare has the soothsayer utter those words, and the rest is history. Shakespeare wasn't too much hung up on facts, twisting the details to suit his fancy here (just as he did in the play 'MacBeth'), but we all remember the phrase 'Beware the Ides of March'.
Then of course the weather folks got into the game, citing major storms that have occurred on March 15th (often simply during the month of March seems enough). Thus March in general and the Ides of March in particular hold the reputation of marking bad weather. Certainly not here today, though winter is dragging on.
Yesterday was Pi Day. If you remember your math, 'Pi' (3.14 or the ratio of the diameter of a circle to the circumference) is a mathematical constant. And it's not surprising that the 14th day of the 3rd month is Pi Day. Besides, it can be celebrated with a slice of pie! I found reference to Pi Day in no fewer than 3 blogs yesterday, DJan-ity has the best discussion and points out that it's also Einstein's Birthday.
St. Urho's Day
St. Urho is a fictional Finnish Saint, invented by Finnish Americans in Northern Minnesota in 1956, when Urho Kekkonen was elected President of Finland. The conspirators who invented it wanted to have a day to celebrate their culture as the Irish did on St. Paddy's Day. Then they picked March 16th as St. Urho's Day so they could start drinking their green beer before the Irish. Of course Far Side of Fifty is the blog that celebrates St. Urho's Day - check it out.
Green Beer Day or St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick is the patron Saint of Ireland, known for bringing Christianity to much of northern Ireland in the 5th century. Though there is debate over both when and where he was born, I think the dates 385-461 mark his life well enough. I think the legend of his birth in southwest Scotland is reasonable, but we do know that he was captured by Irish pirates as a teenager and enslaved as a shepherd in Ireland for 6 years. He escaped and made his way back to home where he trained to become a cleric. It was then that he moved to Ireland and began his great life preaching Christianity.
St. Patrick's Day was recognized as a Christian feast day in the early 1600s, and has grown ever since. Some would say that it's celebrated more among the Irish of North America than in Ireland itself. It's not just green beer that's associated with the day, it's almost anything green, especially any clothing and shamrocks. The day falls within Lent of course, but historically the church has lifted the restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol for the day, enabling the consumption of gallons of green beer!
So enjoy whatever day you want to celebrate, but beware the Ides of March!