Jack Frost Nipping at Your Nose

Frost is pretty much a defining characteristic of this time of year. Winters in the north woods get pretty darned cold. Our daytime highs have been in the -15 to -20 degrees Celsius range lately and the nights have been dipping down as low as -30. It’s the type of weather that takes your breath away, crisp and clear and, once you bet used to it, really very beautiful.

Winter nights in Manitoba can be perfect for creating what is one of my favourite spectacles: hoar frost.  On clear, cold nights, much of the earth’s heat gets sucked up into the atmosphere’s abyss, leaving the surface cooler than the air around it.  When that happens, frost forms, growing in dendrites from every available substrate.

I can still remember my first experience with hoar frost. I was a child and waking up to the world fringed in sparkling white was like walking into a dream.

While it’s gorgeous on a grand scale, it’s equally amazing when you get up close and personal, each tiny crystal spreading out into the air like tiny ferns. Each fragile structure grows as the frigid air can no longer retain the water vapour within it, depositing thin blades of ice at the tip of each branch.

So, if you’re lucky enough to live in an area that freezes from time to time, take a moment and the fragile and ephemeral beauty that is frost.


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