WHY FOG HATES THE SNOW
Yesterday’s warm storm was remarkable in the way it made most of the snow cover vanish, especially when you consider the warmth lasted less than a day. The warm front didn’t push through until three on Wednesday afternoon, and the cold front passed here at around eight on Thursday morning. We were in the warm sector, with temperatures at fifty or above, less than seventeen hours, and there was no sunshine during that time, either. However the snow vanished more quickly than it would with a high sun, on a fair day in March.
The old timers used to say fog “eats” the snow, and now that I am working on becoming an anachronism, and practice scratching my grey whiskers in the mirror a lot, I attempt to copy the elders I recall, mentioning to parents that the fog “ate” the snow. One of the children at our Childcare must have mistaken the word “ate” for “hate.”
It was a rough day for both parents and children. It is hard enough getting going in the morning without children, and children are not at their best fresh out of bed, either. They will balk at putting on a jacket even when it is zero out, but Thursday morning it was sixty. Some children arrived properly dressed for January, looking a little sweaty, (though not as sweaty as their parents,) but other children arrived looking slightly amazed, for they had won the battle. Apparently their parents simply couldn’t fight over clothing when it was so warm.
It was sixty at daybreak and still fifty-six when most of the children were being dropped off. But at eight the front came through with wild, swirling winds and pouring rain which didn’t have big drops like a summer shower, but rather was sheets of a fine spray, and the temperature dropped seven degrees in around two minutes, and then continued down more slowly, even as the sun came out. It was thirty-eight at eleven and dropped below freezing around three, and roughly twenty-eight when the parents returned from work to pick their children up.
(If you think a single child then exclaimed, “Oh Father! Father! You were quite correct to suggest I bring a jacket this morning!” then you don’t know children.)
We had pulled out most of our “loaner” clothing to bundle them in, but were stressed because even when there’s a cold wind howling kids can’t resist a puddle, and then look at you with mournful expressions, when they are drenched. You may feel like saying, “It serves you right, you little brat: I warned you, didn’t I? But you just had to a belly-slide, didn’t you?” However it is too late, and I honestly think there are some things kids need to learn on their own. After they have learned, they look so sad I can’t really get mad at them, even though all our racks were full of drying clothing, and we were running out of stuff to loan.
Therefore I took them to our highest ground, away from the temptation of puddles, where there is a big pile of sand for a construction project that never happened twenty years ago. (Most everywhere else the thaw had melted the permafrost-like earth about a half-inch deep, creating an amazing layer of ooze. It will rapidly refreeze, and in fact was in the process of doing so, but for the moment the sandpile seemed the safest place. As we walked I had to constantly steer them away from all their other favorite places, which displeased them and added to the general attitude of grumpiness.
The skating pond was out of bounds, the igloo was a shrunken ring of snow in a puddle of mud, and the sledding hill now lacked any snow whatsoever, (which did not discourage one intrepid boy, who didn’t believe my hoary wisdom and had to see if sleds really didn’t work without snow, all on his own.)
Once we made it to the pile of sand they were swiftly engrossed with Tonka toys and happy, but during the walk they tested me to my limits, awaking that part of my brain which only functions during dire emergencies when my life flashes before my eyes, dire emergencies such as storms at sea, car crashes, wildfires, and being amidst a pack of whining children. I’m often surprised by what pops out of my mouth.
When one child howled, “I want to go home!” I simply agreed, “Me too!” Then I inquired, “What are you going to do when you get home?” The child looked very thoughtful. (I myself dreamed of hot, buttered rum.)
It was right at this point when one of the most polite and thoughtful little boys, who had been obviously dismayed that the sledding was ruined but hadn’t complained, turned to me and mournfully inquired, “Why does the fog hate the snow?”
I was a bit amazed, for the fog was long gone. A bracing northwest gale swayed the trees, as purple cumulous, their edges already turned the color of butternut squash by the lateness of the day, cruised over and occasionally threw down handfuls of flakes and snow-pellets like confetti. However the boy was reflecting back to the balmy morning, when the fog was still thick, and he heard me talk with his father as the man dropped him off.
His asking eyes demanded an answer, but I knew it would be useless to talk of latent heat added to water during the phase-change from liquid to gas, and released from water during the phase-change from gas back to liquid. Therefore I simply said, “Did you know there is fire in fog?”
That got all the boys interested, though some were guffawing, as if they knew I was telling a tall tale and they were in on the joke.
I continued, “No, think of it. When your Mom has a pot on the stove, the fire under it never makes the pot any hotter. It just boils and boils and boils. So where does the heat go? It goes into the steam. The steam carries it away, until it finds something cold, and then it lets the heat go when it turns back into water. Did you ever notice how, when your cold can of soda pop gets warm on a summer day, the outside of the can gets all wet? That’s because the steam in the air is turning back to water, and warming up your soda as it does so. And the same thing happens when the steam turns to fog and runs up against the side of a snow bank. Just like your can of soda gets all wet, the snow bank gets all wet, and just like your soda got warm, the snow bank gets warm and melts.”
The thoughtful boy looked slightly cross-eyed, as he tried to digest the scientific concept of latent heat and phase changes at a tender age, however the other boys just laughed, and headed for their Tonka trucks. To them the idea was a good joke, but obviously bull.
Actually the ability of water to take large amounts of heat and shift it long distances is an amazing phenomenon. On a hot summer day the baking heat evaporates and puffs-up huge masses of water vapor, which build giant thunderheads, which boom up to the very verge of outer space, and release the heat up there as the vapor turns back to water. A lot of that heat heads off into the void of space, and the thunderhead has acted as a sort of safety valve.
I imagine if CO2 actually did warm the planet, thunderheads would get rid of the heat, for there is much more H2O than CO2. However when I venture this idea to Alarmists, very few want to talk about latent heat or phase changes. (The few that do involve me in really interesting talks.) However most act like the boys heading off to their Tonka trucks. Unfortunately, they don’t have the manners of a six-year-old, as they do so.
Our warm storm, though it only lasted seventeen hours, bracketed midnight, and therefore gave us high temperatures in the fifties on both Wednesday and Thursday, influencing 48 hours of data. January will be a degree and a half above normal in New Hampshire, which will surely encourage the Alarmists. However the world as a whole, using the best satellite measurements, is only 0.1 degree above normal, this past January. That will make Alarmists very, very sad.
According to the believers in Global Warming, by now temperatures were suppose to be at least a full degree above normal, world wide. The fact is, temperatures aren’t. Therefore either the H2O “safety valve” is working better than they imagined, or there was no CO2-caused warming to begin with, and the warming we experienced was a natural cycle that is now ending.