Haze, Skiing, and Thunderstorms

2006-06-20 02:18:39.000 – Neil Lareau,  Observer

We code haze as a present weather phenomena on our hourly weather forms only a handful of times through a year. Today was one of those days. The suspension of millions of minute particles trapped in the air marred visibility, reducing it throughout the day to less than 7 miles. That is substantial. Think about how different the air is on a day like today from a day where we can see the snow capped peak of Mt. Marcy in the Adirondaks 131 miles distant. The strange thing is that if you aren’t accustomed to how good the views can be, a day like today can seem like a nice day on the summits. It isn’t. It is gross. It is gross to breathe the air borne detritus of our convenience. But alas, I am as guilty as the rest. I like my car. What sacrifices are we, are you, am I willing to make? That is a tough question. If you’re like me you mostly ignore it, but maybe today would be a good one to think about it just a little.

I couldn’t resist the temptation to make one last run down the rapidly dwindling snow fields early yesterday morning. It is strange to ski surrounded by greening sedge and blooming flowers. It is stranger still to realize how deep the snow on these eastern slopes is during the late winter and early spring. In every direction I was flanked by massive rocks, rocks that I ski over through most of the season. Another peculiar realization was that some of the snow that I was skiing on may have been up to 8 months old, dating to the very first deposits from the early October blizzards. Snow is a some what inappropriate word for the crystalline substance that remains. “Firn” is a more appropriate term, meaning snow that has been metamorphosed through compaction and pressure to form a granular ice structure that is the intermediary stage between snow and true glacial ice. Frankly it doesn’t make for the best skiing, but then, it is nearly the solstice so there will be no complaining.

A powerful line of storms coalesced from the haze and humidity this afternoon christening the fledgling summer season. Thunderstorms are amazing. They are amazing events that live on in our memories, especially as children, and serve an invigorating reminder that we are undeniably subject to the whims of our atmosphere. I like that notion.

 

Neil Lareau,  Observer

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