Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ice phenology

The Inuit word for what is now covering our yard is "carpitla, snow glazed with ice." (Here's an alternate perspective on the number of Inuktitut words for snow and ice.) This year's sparse, thin snow cover, combined with not one but two January thaws, makes for treacherous cross-country travel in our neck of the woods. The driveway isn't much better. We got "nickled and dimed" with dustings of snow earlier this week, the kind that doesn't seem worth blowing or shoveling. Then it melted and now it's refreezing and tomorrow, hopefully, it will melt again. At least the deck is no longer covered with snow or ice. I never would have thought I'd be noting a downside to a January thaw. At least the Better Half and I each have Trax on our boots. Without them, I might well be in traction or have my broken a** in a sling after I slipped and fell. 'Tis but a preview of March's coming attractions, no doubt.

snow and ice covers the St. Croix River
snow and ice covers the St. Croix River
Photo by J. Harrington

One of the pleasures I get from writing this blog is the serendipitous discovery of information related to what I start to write about on any given day. Until today, I never thought about whether there is such a thing as the phenology of ice. There is. It relates to the dates of freeze up and ice out. I also never knew there's a National Snow and Ice Data Center. Ice phenology and climate change at Lake Mendota tell us that "... the average duration of ice cover has declined [there] from about 4 to 3 months or by 25%." I wonder if Senator Inhofe ever ice skated.At least this week's storm must reassure him that global warming is just an academic, liberal hoax and he's been right all along. (I know of few politicians more Right than the good senator.)

This Inwardness, This Ice


By Christian Wiman

This inwardness, this ice,
this wide boreal whiteness

into which he's come
with a crawling sort of care

for the sky's severer blue,
the edge on the air,

trusting his own lightness
and the feel as feeling goes;

this discipline, this glaze,
this cold opacity of days

begins to crack.
No marks, not one scar,

no sign of where they are,
these weaknesses rumoring through,

growing loud if he stays,
louder if he turns back.

Nothing to do but move.
Nowhere to go but on,

to creep, and breathe, and learn
a blue beyond belief,

an air too sharp to pause,
this distance, this burn,

this element of flaws
that winces as it gives.

Nothing to do but live.
Nowhere to be but gone.


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