Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When snow is bad

The October snowstorm clearly overloaded the forest before it was ready. The resulting damage disrupted human life for weeks afterward as many people waited for electric power to be restored.

The snow that falls now is just as useless, piling up on unfrozen ground to insulate it from freezing deeply to support the snow we hope to get when winter actually arrives.

When I came to New Hampshire in 1987,  the locals I met felt that winter arriving on Thanksgiving was normal. Since I had come to enjoy winter, I was ready to give all of December to snow season. But in 1987, the weather had been cold for at least a few weeks. The ground was frozen. The snow might as well fall, because everything certainly looked and felt like winter.

With the shift in climate, the ground sometimes does not freeze deeply all winter. If we get these early, heavy snowstorms they keep the earth warm enough to harbor flowing water and eat away the snow cover from beneath. What looks like an early ski season is just a treacherous plod. The snow sticks to everything. Later, when the sun arcs higher in March, the warmth from above meets the warmth from below to eat away the snow pack.

We make the best of it because we have no choice.

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