Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Small frost crystals sparkle

Today I will present some detailed photos of the frost build up. But first, here is our morning view across the valley. A light layer of clouds taunting us again with the chance of snow. The forecast gives us a 20 percent chance. However, I still see no sign that the lows are winning over the highs. Status quo. 

Max’s southside is surely happy this time of year. Without snow clouds, we hardly notice the shortening daylight. With only 18 days left to shorten, we will be back to lengthening days–a short yet bitter winter. 

I am fascinated by the frost crystals this month. They are much smaller that the large plates we had in October. I can only hypothesize that is due to the much colder temperatures making it harder for the water vapor to settle out onto existing crystals. In October the temperatures were in the 20’s and high teens. This month they have barely cracked 10°, today we will be lucky if it is over 7°.

This past weekend, as many locals and parents of high schoolers may know, Moose Meadows in Girdwood hosted the nordic and skate ski races. This was due to the fact that there was poor snow conditions at Kinkaid Park in Anchorage. Fortunately Girdwood has had a little more snow and has an avid Nordic Ski Club to maintain an extensive network of trails. The Girdwood Nordic club groomed Moose Meadows for the race so I thought I’d give it a try today. I did this with the knowledge in mind that the racers probably packed the trail and it would be icy. I wanted to give it a chance because at the end of last season, some of the best skiing was on ungroomed snow with a crispy surface. That was not to be the case this week. The conditions were terrible for regular nordic. I am not a skate skier so I cut across the center in a track someone else made and rounded out to head home.  There were other folks out there, even children indicating it is doable by better skilled people than myself. The most annoying, however, was all the dogs. Dogs are allowed in Moose Meadows, but what I never see is any owner picking up the poo. In addition to icy skiing conditions, there are trail hazards to avoid. Dog owners and their dogs, you get the finger! Pick it up! Plus, when spring comes and that concentration of poo seeps into the meadows, it spreads icky bacteria. And no, it is not natural to our environment! 

On to more pleasantries. Here is a selection of frost photos. Several of them have been enhanced, color shifted, and adjusted to highlight the crystal structures. No artificial crystals have been built in the making of these pictures. One thing I have noticed in this frost episode is the formation of little "pillows" of frost. These look like something has bubbled up from underneath. The pillows are small, about 2-4 inches across.

Here are some selections of branches. Although it looks like the branches are growing in thickness all the way around, indeed most have frost "hanging" as if the frost forms by gravity as well. 

Here are some awesome views of the crystal forms, frost close-up. Again, these are not as large as the 4-6 inch plates (20 cm) we saw in October. These are about 1-2 inches (2-5 cm)

Look at the special formations. Any mathematician, fibonaccians, or fractal experts I am sure know all about these. 

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