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Thursday, 6 March 2014

Ice Photos

In my part of Canada there have been exactly six days where the average temperature was above the freezing mark since Christmas Eve.  The snow continues to accumulate; ice has formed in different ways and in different places.
Both photos taken on December 22nd by my husband, after the ice storm

   I was thinking that during this long winter we could pay a bit more attention to some intricacies of snow and ice.  Some of us may remember learning the hydrological (water) cycle and the unique way snow/frost is formed as opposed to ice.  Ice makes the simple transition from liquid to solid through cold temperatures, whereas snow and frost skip a step.  They are formed by sublimation, when water vapour responds to freezing temperatures.
   While it has become legendary that the Inuit language of Inuktitut has numerous words for snow and ice due to the fact that its speakers have the longest winters on the planet, English can also boast over 50 specific words related to ice and snow.[1]  Many of these words come from specialized fields, such as alpine skiing and meteorology.  Another specialized field that deals with ice is electrical engineering.  Until recently I had never heard of additional words for ice, namely soft and hard rime and glaze ice.  A researcher at the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi, whose thesis paper I had the privilege of editing, used these terms because various types of ice coatings on electrical equipment can have greater damaging effects than others.  Another fascinating adjective I learned from this study was “icephobic,” that which inhibits the formation of ice.
  Today I took a photo of the snow bank beside my driveway, which is anything but icephobic.  The grainy snow becomes liquid and then freezes as an icicle along the side.  
Another icicle (right) on the back fender of my van defies gravity.

[1] http://poetry-contingency.uwaterloo.ca/fifty-five-english-words-for-snow/ shares a list of words.

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