In folklore and literature, Jack Frost is often portrayed as a mischievous guy, sort of Old Man Winter’s younger self. He’s a personification of everything cold. In our region he’s a busy guy, at least for half of the year.
And an artistic one.
He gets credit for painting the trees orange and yellow and red in the fall. And we’re all familiar with ground frost, that harbinger of winter that looks like a dusting of snow. This phenomenon occurs when the temperature of objects near the ground falls below freezing. Water in the air freezes onto objects, sometimes as what looks like frozen dewdrops, sometimes as branched crystals.
Other times, Jack Frost picks up another brush to load everything with the lacy, feathery designs of hoarfrost.
Hoarfrost derives from the old English word “hoary,” meaning, getting on in age. It has the power to excite the poet in us. When you wake on a cold morning and look out to see the entire world — trees, bushes, your car — draped with lacy, feathery crystals glinting in the sunlight, it’s magical. The word “fairyland” comes to mind.
According to John Goff, the lead meteorologist at the National Weather Service Office in Burlington, hoarfrost is a “common occurrence” across the northern tier of the US, but almost nonexistent in areas with dryer, warmer climates. To form, hoarfrost requires a supersaturated column of cold air extending well above the surface of the ground.
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