I creaked out of bed before dawn to peer out the front door towards the streetlight, and saw a whirl of snow. Another inch had fallen, due what is called a “Norlun Wave.”
For a better explanation than I can give, of Norlun Waves, Matt Noyes has produced some decent articles at his site. Here is one, with links in it to other articles he’s penned, plus links to papers about Norlun Waves by others.
If you have leisure you can spend a whole morning reading interesting stuff and mentally dabbling with the intricate wonder of the atmosphere, but I still have to clean up the mess from the last storm, so rather than be scientific I’ll grouch and grumble.
After many storms all the moisture is swept out to sea by roaring northwest winds that bring south a cold front and dry air. Other storms have much less wind, and ripple away to the north leaving moisture and mild air behind. It is the mild moisture that sets up the Norlun Trough.
As this mild air gets squeezed by rising pressures behind the storm the effected area doesn’t see pressures rise, as you would think, but rather pressures fall because the squeezed air rises.(I am so disgusted by the prospect of more snow-blowing and shoveling that I will use the most disgusting symbol I can think of:) The air is squeezed like a pimple, and the building pressure shoots up like pus, reducing pressure at the surface. The uplift is increased by the latent heat released by water vapor condensing and freezing, and the pus comes raining back down as disgusting snow-flakes on my driveway. At this point, if my mood is better, I write lovely poems about the white fluff outside, trying to emulate the appreciation the Japanese have of snow and cherry blossoms, but I am so achy from yesterday’s work I only scowl. If I flower at all I am a flowering crab.
If I had the time to ponder the nuances of the maps, I’d probably study the way the uplift of a Norlun Trough extends west to the uplift created by the relatively warm water of the Great Lakes. There might be an interesting linkage between the two events. Even if there isn’t, I could say there was, and stir up a lively discussion at some obscure site where weather geeks gather, and in the process of being told how wrong I was I might learn a thing or two. That seems such a fine way to fritter away the hours, when I am faced with the heavy, brown crud blocking the entrance to the Childcare.
I have noticed that many meteorologists have a poetic streak. I suppose it is an occupational hazard that comes from looking at clouds too much. However I have no time for poetry or for meteorology. It is souring my mood, and I look a little like Rodney Dangerfield in my mirror. “I get no respect.” Rather than throwing money at me to write poetry, people want me to hack away at frozen slush. All I can say is, they’ll be sorry when I’m dead.
I noticed that some of the other fellows were muttering similar thoughts, during Thanksgiving Dinner. Usually the guys allow the women to do most of the bustling, perhaps carrying a pie in from a car or carving a turkey, but for the most part feasting and then sitting about bloated, talking about hunting escapades or the nuances of football, but yesterday there was a more tired-looking group slouched in easy chairs, shaking their heads about the poor excuse for snow they’d had to deal with.
Usually the first foot of snow is cleaned up with precision, and the snowbanks have sharp corners and are built with geometric exactness. It is the exact opposite of April snow, which is going to melt so soon it is sloppily shoved aside and left to wilt in the high sunshine. On this side of winter everyone knows the snowbanks may last five more months, so care is taken to get off to a good start.
Yesterday was a lousy start. Even though I had the Childcare drive clean at six o’clock on Wednesday night, six more inches had fallen by Thursday morning, and the ground is still so warm that the bottom four inches slumped down to a substance somewhere between very heavy snow and slush. Then the town plows, which (due to budget problems) hadn’t really even started to plow until morning, shoved this heavy stuff from the roads into the entrances of every driveway in town, mingling it with sand and bits of tar torn from the road’s deteriorating surface, (un-repaired due to budget problems.)
When younger I laughed at old geezers who used snow-blowers, and often had my drive finished with a shovel while they were still cursing at their machines and trying to get them started. Those days are gone, and I’ve now converted to the geezer world-view. However the snow-blowers struggled even with the uncompressed snow on the drives, and the piles at the end of the drives strangled them. The chutes plugged up with the snow, and when it did come out of the chutes it was a sort of brown soup that described a pathetic arc and landed three feet away, still in the driveway. Even though it is illegal, most just shifted the snow back out onto the roads, which were brazenly bare and wet and snow-free.
My oldest son said he even had trouble with his plow. If he tried to plow straight ahead his truck would slow to a stop with all four tires spinning, so he had to plow a sort of zig-zag pattern up driveways, shifting snow first to the right side, and then to the left. (I would have had him plow the Childcare, but have learned through bitter experience that plowing builds huge mountains in all the wrong places, making it nearly impossible to clear snow in following storms, and also effecting the septic system’s leach field.)
In any case, it looks like we are off to a bad start, this winter. I am going to have to revert to primitive shoveling, and to use shovels meant for dirt, as the stuff blocking the Childcare entrance laughs at plastic snow shovels. Fortunately I have two younger sons in their early twenties to help me, though I must confess they seem less than pleased by the prospect. To them Thanksgiving means leisure.
I have a strong feeling leisure is going to be in short supply, before we see the last of this winter.