Whatever The Weather


Country Moon'Tis the season to … slip and slide, shovel snow, deal with black ice and freezing fog. Yes, at this time of year, Mother Nature dishes up a mixed bag of precipitation, each presenting its own challenge for walking, driving and generally just getting around.

When you listen to the local weather forecast it gets even more confusing. Do you ever wonder what the difference is between freezing rain, sleet and freezing drizzle? In my book it all translates into leaving early for work, driving even more defensively and generally making for a challenging day all the way around.

All this winter weather affects us in more ways than we sometimes realize. Not only does it make commuting difficult, it basically rearranges everyone’s schedules. Think about it; schools either run late or let the students out early, which means schedules with daycare and babysitters have to be re-arranged; patients cancel appointments, thus altering schedules for doctors and nurses; delivery people have a hard time maneuvering and end up working longer hours; and the list goes on and on.

Weather is the focal point of conversations more than any other topic because weather affects everyone everyday. Remember when the forecast used to be simple. When snow was predicted, it was just snow. Now we have lake-effect snow. Freezing rain meant exactly what it said, not freezing drizzle or freezing fog or sleet. In the summers, we would have tornadoes, so what’s up with straight-line winds?

Through all this muck I decided to get a little weather-savvy and sort out all these terms that meteorologists like to throw at us. Here are some interesting facts I discovered:

  1. Let’s start with snow. Quite simply, snow is precipitation in the form of ice crystals, usually falling white flakes. When the term lake-effect snow is mentioned, it refers to cold winds moving across long expanses of warmer lake water like the Great Lakes. When this occurs, snow accumulation is heavier the nearer you are to the body of water. Here in Michigan when we hear the term lake-effect, it translates to mean “we’re going to be dumped on by snow, better head to the grocer’s because by noon the shelves will be pretty bare and by evening we have a 50-50 chance of either having 2 feet of snow or 2 inches.”

The adage that no two snowflakes are alike is probably true for fully developed flakes. Jon Nelson is a research scientist who studies snowflakes. Imagine that! Snow that reaches the ground in the early stages of development is basically all the same, consisting of six-sided prisms. However, once they start growing the crystals, each one picks up its own unique shape. If photographs of a million different snowflakes were compared at a rate of two every second, it would take 100,000 years for the comparisons and the odds are there would not be two exactly alike.

2/12/2015 8:21:32 AM

Lois, at least in your area and mine the weather people have something to talk about. I have family that live in Las Vegas and visit them from time to time. The most humorous thing I see on TV there are the weather forecasters trying to fill up 10 minutes of exciting weather for the area when the weather is pretty much the same every day. Warm, sunny, with no rain. Oh, yeah, and they don't have smog there. It's high plains clouds. Seriously? Get some real weather like Nebraska or Michigan. :-) ***** Have a great Winter day.

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