Snow! Some areas of our region have already set records for snowfall, and for some people the snow has worn out its welcome. Even though snow occasionally causes us problems, we really should not forget the sheer beauty of snowflakes. We must admit that this “dust from heaven” has to be one of the most intriguing and evocative natural phenomenon on earth. Joe Felso said it quite eloquently:
“Snow falling two ways:
As a shower of stars or
As all the heavens
I have a couple books on snowflakes: “The Snowflake, winter’s secret beauty” and “The Little Book of Snowflakes.” The two books contain some beautiful snowflake photography and pretty much everything you wanted to know about snowflakes but were afraid to ask. I was surprised to learn that the author of the books, Kenneth Libbrecht, is a native North Dakotan. He is now a professor at Caltech and has become a specialist in snowflake formation. He even maintains a website dedicated to snowflakes. You can check it out at www.snowcrystals.com
As you may know, the shape and size of a snowflake is extremely variable, and supposedly no two are identical. However, scientists that study snowflakes have identified over thirty basic shapes. The shape results from variations in the temperature and humidity conditions under which the snowflake forms.
Many of you can probably remember the sense of wonder and awe when, as a grade school kid, you went out into a snowfall with your teacher and a piece of black construction paper to observe snowflakes. Give some consideration to redoing that elementary school experience. You could even enhance the experience with the aid of a magnifying glass. If you aren’t up for that, go out for a walk during a gentle snowfall.
Whatever your preferences, make a point of getting out and enjoying at least one snowfall this winter. Snow is one of life’s simple pleasures that our northern climes offer during winter, and to experience, to really experience a snowfall, you have to get out in it.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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