This & That

Story published: 01-29-2014 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Thoughts about winter in the county

By Jack Swift

Thereís a lot of ways to look at the winter season in Johnson County and the surrounding area. Yes, we have snow and low temperatures but no, itís not near as extreme as some areas further north and in the Midwest. As you already know, the severity of the weather varies from year to year.

I donít remember with certainty about temperatures last winter, but if I remember correctly it didnít get near as cold as it has for the past few days. My thermometer read zero for about three days in a row.

One recent morning I got up to find our hot water had frozen. The cold water was still flowing well. I found that hot water apparently freezes before cold water ó that is, most of the time, but not all of the time. I understand some scientists are studying that effect and it is still under investigation with no clear explanation for the phenomenon.

While the winter season affords an abundance of beauty in the snow- covered landscape, there are also many problems that are brought about by the cold temperatures and snow. Ice covered roads can lead to tragic automobile accidents. Also, the ice-covered walkways can cause falls that are seldom without consequence.

On the bright side of snow is the opportunity for recreation. Some folks canít wait to hit the slopes to get in some skiing. As I mentioned earlier in this column, snow is beautiful. Moreover, itís good for the land as it pertains to farming because snow puts nitrogen in the ground.

According to The New Book of Knowledge snow begins as a cloud. Depending on the temperature in the cloud and the types of condensation nuclei there, this water vapor changes either to all ice crystals or to a mixture of ice crystals and water droplets. Even at temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees, liquid water can be present in clouds.

This water is said to be supercooled. Supercooled droplets remain liquid until they bump into ice crystals, and then they freeze. As ice crystals fall and move around, they collide with each other and stick together in a process known as aggregation. This is the process that forms large snowflakes. Each snowflake is made up of a number of ice crystals. The shapes of these ice crystals depend on the temperature in the cloud where they are formed. The shapes include hollow columns, thin plates, needles, six-pointed stars, and branchlike forms know as dendrites.

Snow is a complicated action of nature, but knowing a little about how it is made doesnít take from me the wonder and awe of its existence. Snow covers the landscape and is a thing of beauty but we must not forget the danger of it as we attempt to carry on our business in snowy weather. Like many things, snow is both good and bad, depending on how we use it. Itís bad if we must drive in a snowstorm, Itís good if we just canít wait to hit the slopes or we just like the beauty of that particular part of Godís creation.