Sunday, January 2, 2011


The Five- Minute Winter Wonderland.

Waking up to a winter wonderland type of scenery, with beautiful crystal snowflakes on the windows is a breathtaking experience, at least for the first five minutes as one gazes at the splendor and beauty of it all. Then reality creeps in, and with that comes the knowledge that most likely one’s day, and its productivity and activities are going to be affected by this magical sparkling carpet of crystal. The effects of the snow depends on which city or town one resides in, and how well prepared they are for coping with the snow and it’s side effects. In November 2010, Gatwick Airport just outside of London closed down for a couple of days, due to the unexpected falling of two inches of snow. Chaos and confusion resulted from the fact that there were no incoming or outgoing flights, and many ‘trooper’s found themselves camping out at the airport as they had not budgeted any extra hotel spending into their travel budget, and the airlines were not providing any compensation or assistance for hotel accommodation. Snowfall is considered an “Act of God” and thus airlines are exempt from having to provide room and board for their travelers.

As cold as it may get in the winter in London, there really is a comparatively small amount of snow that actually falls annually in London.

What actually is snow, and what causes snow to fall?
Snow is a type of precipitation which is formed within the Earth’s atmosphere, and falls from the Earth’s atmosphere. Snow is formed when water vapor is cooled to below freezing point quickly and does not get the chance to form into rain droplets, and instead forms snow crystals. Usually, this occurs when warm moist air comes into contact with very cold air.

Due to the process of evaporation and air circulation, there is always some level of moisture present in the air around us all the way out into the air in the Earth’s atmosphere. Condensation of this moisture in the air causes this moisture to fall in various forms. Snow is one of these forms. In the atmosphere, water condenses into a single tiny droplet. As more water condenses onto the surface of the droplet, the droplet grows in size and shape. The cold air then freezes this water droplet into an ice crystal.

The temperature of the air as well as the water vapor content of each ice crystal are the factors that determine the unique shapes of the ice crystal. If the temperature is below that of freezing point, and there is a considerable amount of water vapor present in the air, the ice crystal grows six evenly spaced branches. If the temperature is at freezing point or below, and there is a lot of water vapor in the air, the crystal grows six evenly spaced branches. These branches are important as more water vapor collects on them and freezes, causing the ice crystals to become increasingly heavier. With the increased weight, the ice crystal eventually falls from the atmosphere, also known as the sky. As the ice crystal falls, it continues to grown by picking up more water vapor.

As the ice crystal descends through the atmosphere, it may come into contact with warmer air. This warmer air tends to melt the crystal slightly, and can cause ice crystals to bond together into larger flakes. However, if the ice crystals melt too much and then refreeze as they approach the ground on Planet Earth, the precipitation may fall as sleet instead of snow. Once on the ground, snow will remain as long as the temperatures are cold enough to keep them from melting.

As beautiful as freshly fallen snow is, it can be a road hazard for many, and quite treacherous in some instances. Driving in the snow and ice, and then getting stuck is not necessarily a lot of fun. As salt and sand are spread on the roads and sometimes the sidewalks, to encourage the melting of the snow as well as adding friction to the ground to enable vehicles to take advantage of the friction, the once beautiful crisp powdery blanket turns into a discolored pile of ice, which can be quite a task to navigate. Pedestrians have an equally hard time trying to avoid slipping in almost invisible layers of ice which was once beautifully powered snow which melted into a thin layer of ice.

Nature is beautiful, and snow is a part of nature. To enjoy the beauty of freshly fallen snow, try waking up a little earlier than most people to see the snow that fell overnight, in all of its glory.