Frost In Lieu Of Snow?

As this late fall season marches inexorably towards the Winter Solstice I’ve already remarked about the dearth of snow. October was around 30% of normal precipitation and thus far in November we’ve seen just 0.15” of precipitation and most of that was rain. The normal November precipitation in Talkeetna is 1.63” and I’d wager that’s the water equivalent from mostly snow fall. Even across the past ten days our air temp has flirted with the freezing mark and actually hit 39.1 F on November 12th! This by itself is most unusual but I also noticed that the Florence, Kentucky area where a very good friend of mine lives with his wonderful family is expected to get three to five inches of snow across today. Florence is just a bit south of Cincinnati which does mean it is a ways south yet they will soon see three to five inches more snow than Talkeetna, Alaska has experienced this winter..?!? That is absurd!

One rather unusual condition I’ve seen during this period is the formation of heavy frost which, if the air temp remains below freezing, does not melt across the day and accumulates much like snow under these conditions. Living in Michigan I was no stranger to frost but it always melted off during the day so seeing frost not just remain but accumulate across a number of days is a bit unusual. It is easy to understand how this occurs given the outdoor humidity remains at 90% plus across most of the day so if the air temp remains below freezing the moisture in the air is going to freeze upon objects like trees, houses, brush and similar. This very high and prolonged humidity is a function of living within a large boreal forest; this cuts air flow down to almost nothing and the rather damp nature of the forest contributes to the airborne moisture. Indeed, in living up here for fifteen months now the maximum wind gust my anemometer has recorded was 18 mph. It is approximately 25 feet off the ground but still well surrounded by the taller birch and spruce trees. One would need to put it somewhere between 35 and 50 feet to really get an accurate reading. It is not uncommon to see the tops of the trees really swaying in the wind while at ground level there’s just the slightest of breezes.

This was taken from the second floor master bedroom and the white is frost, not snow.  The flimsy orange barricade actually does keep the dogs within the back yard

This was taken from the second floor master bedroom and the white is frost, not snow. The flimsy orange barricade actually does keep the dogs within the back yard

The frost is capable of creating some interesting and often beautiful formations especially when struck by the sun. I’ve seen a field of diamonds which was really just the local muskeg being illuminated by direct sunlight which found its way through the trees. When using magnification the incredible complexity of the frost crystals can be mesmerizing. But I must admit as interesting and gorgeous as the situation can be it’s a far cry from a foot of fresh white snow! Here’s hoping we eventually see winter arrive and with it the much missed snow…

A single screw can grow a lot of frost over time!

A single screw can grow a lot of frost over time!

Blue plastic string can grow frost quite nicely!

Blue plastic string can grow frost quite nicely!

High Pressure Brings Clear Skies and Heavy Frost

The cooler weather continues unabated and that has all us locals smiling once again although we would sure like to see more snow…as in a few feet more!  Still and all its been wonderful to feel the cold once more.  With this recent streak of cooler temps – this morning was the first below zero temp I’ve recorded since December 27th’s -15.7 F and that makes 40 contiguous days across one of the two coldest months in Talkeetna – has come clear weather and heavy morning frost.  I thought I’d seen ‘heavy’ frost in the lower 48 but once again Alaska has trumped my previous perceptions.  We’ve seen eight straight days of clear weather and each day the frost has grown more and more mainly because daytime temps have remained in the teens with night-time lows slowly dropping from the single digits to around 0 F.  As this occurs the frost builds across the days to form some amazing structures as evidenced by the following images:

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Ice crystal formation on the railing of my back porch

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A screw on my back porch railing pushed up by the repeated freeze/thaw cycles

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A frost sheathed small tree in my back yard

The build up of frost can and does produce beauty equivalent to the aftermath of an ice storm but without all the resultant damage.  It’s especially pretty in the sunlight.  In the lower 48 the sun would normally melt off any frost but its been cold enough recently and the sun remains at a low enough angle that this hasn’t happened.  Given we’re forecast to remain a bit cooler than normal across the next seven days there’s little doubt the frost will continue to grown with the passing days.  Once more my new home both surprises me and amazes me with its unexpected beauty!