Saturday, January 5, 2008

Wintertime is coming, the windows are filled with frost…

This line from Bob Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” always resonates this time of year. December brought in some ice and hints of snow, which frosted the trees in my backyard rather nicely (except for the lonesome pine limb that snapped off under the weight of the ice – no doubt its time had come). This week brought the temperature down to single digits a few mornings, warming to the mid-20’s during the day. The windows are indeed filled with frost.

The wind chill brought it down to around 3 degrees the other evening when I walked Asta around the block. Her lineage is certainly undetermined, but she has a thick coat and a Husky-esque tail, so there’s something in her gene pool that makes her love this weather. A good snow would make us happy – she’d frolic in the deep white stuff, while we humans would rejoice in the snow while dealing with commuting to our various jobs. Here in Blacksburg, Virginia, on the edge of the Allegheny Mountains in the southern Appalachia chain, the altitude is around 2200 feet, and we do get some snow, but not much. According to the National Weather Service (which has a station in Blacksburg), Blacksburg received over 35 inches of snow over the winters of 2002-03 and 2003-04. It’s always hit-or-miss for snow in the Southern Appalachians, but the NOAA website does have an interesting essay on “Heavy Snow Climatology” for Blacksburg on their website.

There’s a long tradition of paying close attention to the weather in western Virginia. Thomas Jefferson was a noted weather junkie, and carefully recorded precipitation and temperature ranges daily. Jefferson was methodical, as this entry from the Monticello wiki site indicates:

(Jefferson) described his daily ritual, the results of which are illustrated in the page from his meteorological diary here reproduced, as follows: "My method is to make two observations a day, the one as early as possible in the morning, the other from 3. to 4. aclock, because I have found 4. aclock the hottest and day light the coldest point of the 24. hours. I state them in an ivory pocket book in the following form, and copy them out once a week. The 1st. column is the day of the month. The 2d. the thermometer in the morning. The 4th. do. in the evening. The 3d. the weather in the morning. The 5th do. in the afternoon. The 6th is for miscellanies, such as the appearance of birds, leafing and flowering of trees, frosts remarkeably late or early, Atrrora borealis, &c. In the 3d. and 5th. columns, a. is after: c, cloudy: f, fair: h, hail: r, rain: s, snow. Thus c a r h s means, cloudy after rain, hail and snow. Whenever it has rained, hailed or snowed between two observations I note it thus, f a r (i.e. fair after rain), c a s (cloudy after snow &c.) otherwise the falling weather would escape notation. I distinguish weather into fair or cloudy, according as the sky is more or less than half covered with clouds."

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