Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Monday, February 10, 2014

Frost Heaves: Nature’s Speed Bumps

frost_heavesI’m driving to work too fast, late as usual, trying to make up for those last five minutes I spent puttering around my house when I should have gotten out the door. I lean on the accelerator a little and grab my trusty travel mug, lifting it to my lips just as my wheels hit a bumpy, rippled section of the pavement. I hit the brakes. The tires make painful washboard sounds, and coffee splashes out of my cup and all over the steering wheel.

Living in the Northeast, you get used to the spilled coffee and car repair bills. It’s a fact of life here — come winter, the roads are going to get rough, and your struts and brakes (and wallet) are going to pay.

“I’d guess forty percent of my time is spent dealing with suspension issues due to frost heaves and pot holes,” says one owner and operator of a local car repair shop. “Bent wheels, ball joints, tire rods…the roads around here are not the greatest.” Snow, ice and freezing rain all contribute to poor road conditions, but frost heaves make winter driving like a video game. Dodge and weave a heave? Twenty points! Hit a heave? Lose ten points and call a mechanic. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Buds: Spanning the Seasons

twigsThe sign in the window, which read, “Clearance! Hats and Gloves 50% off,” puzzled me. Snowflakes swirled on gusty winds. The bitter cold stung my fingertips—I wondered if I should buy warmer gloves while I had the chance. Clearance? Temperatures hadn’t climbed above freezing for days; the warmth of spring was a distant dream.

Blow out your boots, or lose your wool hat in winter, and when you go looking for a replacement you are likely to find sandals and sun hats on display. I used to rail against such a setup, assigning it to an insatiable human propensity for speed, afraid that at some point we might just lap ourselves. But when I began to study trees, and learned how their growth patterns transcend traditional seasonal boundaries, I softened my stance. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Adirondack Night Sky: Taurus The Bull

2 cave art at LascauxOn a clear midwinter evening, look high above the southern horizon and you will see a V-shaped group of moderately bright stars. These stars form the center of the large constellation Taurus. Imagine, as did the Sumerians four thousand years ago, that this pattern outlines the horns of a charging bull. The bright red star Aldebaran prominently shines on his lower (southern) horn.

The stars of the horns are called the Hyades. In Greek mythology, they were the daughters of Atlas and Aethra. Their appearance was associated with the rainy season.  At a mere 150 light years away, The Hyades are actually an open cluster of related stars. Look above and a little to the right (west) of the V and you’ll see a compact cluster of blue stars called the Pleiades. Although this beautiful little asterism is known as the Seven Sisters, some people see six stars with the naked eye, where others claim they can see eleven. With the magnification of 7×50 binoculars, a hundred or more of these gem-like blue stars are revealed in the cluster. The view is spectacular.   » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Skiing To High Rock on the Oswegatchie

Sue Bibeau, and her dog, Ella (Bibeau photo)Earlier this winter, after several long days in the office, I went to bed dreaming of my first backcountry ski trip of the season, a jaunt to High Rock in the Five Ponds Wilderness. Conditions would be perfect. Over the last few days, we had received eight inches of fluffy powder.

Then I woke up. Outside, it was twenty-four below zero, according to my Weather Channel app. Like any sensible person, I immediately broadcast this fact to Facebook. A few people suggested I postpone my trip.

“I have skied at 20 below, but I was 14 and foolish. Stay home, for god’s sake,” posted a former colleague.

But most of my Facebook friends were surprisingly indifferent to the possibility of my freezing to death.

“Burrrrrr & Enjoy!” wrote one. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Adirondack Deep Freeze: Groans, Snaps, and Booms

winter-injury5When temperatures dip well below zero Fahrenheit, especially if they fall precipitously, things pop. Wood siding creaks. Frozen lakes and ponds emit ominous groans, snaps, and booms that reverberate through the ice. If soil moisture is high and frost is deep, even the earth can shift in a harmless localized cryoseism, or “frost quake” that produces a nerve-rattling bang.

If you live in a wooded area, you’ve probably heard trees popping and cracking during a deep freeze. It’s an eerie sound on an otherwise still night. Native peoples from northern regions were very familiar with this sound, and some even named one of the winter months in honor of it. The Lakota call February cannapopa wi, ‘moon when trees crack from the cold.’ The Arapaho consider December the tree-cracking time; for the Abenaki, it’s January. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 20, 2014

North Country Winter: Extreme Snow Shoveling

ShovelingSnow01This season’s crop of unusual weather featured several stretches of bitter December cold the likes of which we usually see in January or February. Injected into the mix were periods of warm temperatures and rain, and in combination, those extremes caused problems for a lot of people—car accidents, frozen pipes, flooding, canceled events, and lots of other bad stuff. In general, though, it was the sort of stuff we North Country folks are accustomed to dealing with.

However, there is one group (of which I’m a member) that has suffered for weeks now, and it’s not over yet.  Despite enduring this lifelong affliction, I’ve never spoken to a professional about it so this amounts to a confession of sorts: I’m a shoveler. I’ll wait a moment for the jokes to clear from your head—“as a writer, you’ve been shoveling it for a long time,” and stuff like that. You’ll get no argument from me. But still, maybe I need help. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Does This Fur Make Me Look Fat? Woodchucks In Winter

woodchuckFat gets a bad rap in the medical world, for good reason. Excessive body fat is linked to a litany of health risks, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.  Yet in the realm of nature, fat is a lifesaver. If certain mammals that hibernate did not get fat, they would be dead by spring.

The woodchuck is something of a fat specialist. As many an irate gardener can attest, the woodchuck’s diet consists of perishable greens. Because these can’t be stored, the animal stockpiles all the food energy it needs to survive winter in a thick layer of body fat. » Continue Reading.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Adirondack Weather: Rain, Sleet or Snow?

sleetsnowiceMany years ago, I lived in San José, California where the weather forecast went something like this: Sunny for three weeks, one day of rain, followed by many more weeks of sun. There was a sameness to the weather that bordered on the banal and never made me wonder what was going on.

Not so here in the Northeast. The mercurial nature of our weather keeps us wondering from day to day – often hour to hour – when it’s going to change. The uncertainty is never more present than in the winter, when at times we’re blessed with that trifecta of miserable driving conditions: snow, sleet, and freezing rain.

Why is it that a day could start with a delicate snowfall and suddenly shift to a clattering sleet and end in an icy glaze – but the mercury doesn’t move? Or the temperature will be 30 degrees in both Elizabethtown and Plattsburgh, but snow will fall in one and freezing rain in the other? Clearly the thermometer is telling only part of the story. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Winter Air Exhibition at View

W001View will bring the magic of winter to life in the January 18 opening of Winter Air, a juried exhibition of 118 works by 58 national and international artists in the Community Gallery.

An opening reception for the event will be from 4 P.M. to 6 P.M. on Saturday, January 18. Wine, beer, and hors d’oeuvres will be available and the reception open to the public.

The Winter Air exhibition will be complemented by three other art exhibitions that will also be featured at the opening reception. Paintings by Chris Baker titled “London and France” will be on display in the Atrium and Balcony galleries. Baker’s paintings convey a sense of light reminiscent of the great American painter Edward Hopper. His paintings – in gouache – are vignettes that reveal the underlying and often overlooked magic that can be found in the everyday. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Psychrophiles: Some Organisms Like It Cold

psychrophilesWe humans tend to cringe at winter temperatures. We put on extra layers, crank up the thermostat, and wait impatiently for the tell-tale drip of spring thaw. However, there are plenty of tiny organisms all around us that aren’t just biding their time; they’re thriving in the bitter cold. If you could listen to as well as watch them under a microscope, you wouldn’t hear a single complaint about the temperature.

Psychrophiles, literally “cold lovers,” are organisms adapted to live at extremely cold temperatures. These are single-celled life forms, most often bacteria, but also blue green algae, yeasts, and fungi that can grow at temperatures as low as -13 degrees. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Adirondack Ice: When The Lake Goes Boom, Boom, Boom

Andy Coney Lake PhotoIt started on the Eve before Christmas Eve, if a natural process can ever be said to have started.  Better said it was a turning point in continuing events.  Despite an early ice-in and mounds of lake effect snow only recently, for the weekend we’d had wet days with heavy rain and overnights above freezing.

Jokes at the Fire Department were that Santa Claus would arrive across the ice on water skis pulled by snowmobile to Sunday’s annual kids’ party.  (Instead he came by fire engine as he always does.)  But Monday as the afternoon ebbed, the slow drizzle grew slower and flecked into tiny snow.  Soggy-bottomed tracks left skiing one way were glazed coming back.  Wet, black roads are suddenly white. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ed Kanze: Coming And Going On Well-Trodden Paths

ed_kanze_winterWhose woods are these I think I know—-they’re ours, although the bank that holds our mortgage might qualify the claim. Out in them for a winter walk, I enjoy seeing signs of the comings and goings of wild neighbors. Their tracks and mine overlap, and the thought of it gives me pleasure.

Listen to my thoughts after coming in out of the snow in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Coping With Trees and Landscape Winter And Salt Damage

20131223BPWIcyPines4003crop(1)Each year the Northern New York region gets a half-dozen or more freezing rain events, and every few years we might see an actual ice storm (technically at least 0.25 inches ice accumulation). But the storm that froze the North Country in up to two inches of glaze between December 21 and 23, 2013, was exceptional.

It didn’t have quite the punch of “The Great Ice Storm of 1998” in which freezing rain tumbled for 80 solid hours, but in some locations damage was extensive.

Ice storms happen when a warm, moisture-laden front slides up and over a cold air mass, and then lets loose the water works. Cumulus clouds billow up (occasionally spawning winter lightning), and when cloud air temperature is between 25 and 30F, the resulting subcooled rain freezes to cold surfaces. Warmer than 30, it rains; colder than 25, it sleets. If the warm front is slow-moving—or worse yet, stalls—the ice really builds up. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Winter Mountaineering: Armstrong Mountain’s East Face

Kevin MudRat MacKenzie on the upper-most slide of Armstrong Mountain's East Face.While the Adirondack Mountains may not have the alpine feel of the White Mountains or height of the Alps, they are nothing if not rugged. Armstrong, one of the mountains of the Great Range, is often regarded as just a summit to check of on the 46r list, not particularly challenging in comparison to nearby peaks especially when approached from the Gothics.

Bushwhacking it from the east, however, is an entirely different story. There are no paths, just gullies leading to the precipitous slides and ledges –the recipe for the perfect winter mountaineering adventure. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cabin Life: The Wet Firewood

The Little StreamAs is my new custom, I’m sitting at the table looking out the big window at the winter weather, and I’m sweating.  The new stove is amazing, but way too large for my little cabin.  A wealth of heat is not necessarily a bad thing, but having the cabin feel like a too-hot summer is a little disconcerting.

I open one of the windows a little more, since all the windows that can open, are already open.  I’m greeted with sounds that are both welcome and unwelcome at the same time.  The sound of snow and ice dripping off of the roof is nice, but the sound of freezing rain is unpleasant.  I woke to a half-inch of ice covering everything.  I can also hear the small rushing stream out back.  It typically only flows in the spring, but now it sounds like constant traffic.  It’s eerily out of place.

Around noon I went out and started my car.  I wanted to get as much ice off as possible before the second round of sleet and freezing rain began.  It was only a little below freezing, but because it was thick and took me most of an hour with the defroster and an ice scraper.  The radio playing in the car told me to stay off the roads for unnecessary travel, but I was out of beer. » Continue Reading.



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