Snow Tractor and Lenticulars

2012-01-05 00:19:58.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

Lenticular clouds to our south today.

Last week, our last shift of 2011 marked the first time we got to use our snow tractor for shift change. While it wasn’t a full top to bottom ride down (we left it at 2 mile park due to lack of snow at the base), it was still a ride never the less. And much like raking leaves or shoveling snow for the first time each season, riding the snow tractor is something I look forward to doing for the first time each winter up here. It’s not that I particularly enjoy the ride (it usually makes me nauseous) but riding up in it means we finally have enough snow to warrant a ride in it plus it gives me bragging rights when I talk to my friends. ‘Oh, your commute in your car took three hours today due to traffic? Mine took three hours in a snow tractor due to a ground blizzard limiting visibilities.’ How cool is that?

So, if last week marked the first down trip for my shift, this week marked our first up trip with the tractor. With the tractor at 2 mile park and the base still lacking in snow, this meant we couldn’t bring it down to the gas pump to refill. Instead, we had to bring the gas up to where we left it. That means we had to bring several fuel cans up to it to refill it . I forgot to look at the exact size of the tanks we were using but they looked like typical 5 gallon plastic kerosene cans you would see at a workshop. Each can was filled with either gasoline or kerosene. While filling it up today, I learned the cans are either filled with kerosene or diesel fuel so that we can do a 2 to 1 mixture that the tractor requires to operate in such cold conditions that we can encounter. Sometimes the ratio is more sometimes less, it is dependent on the time of the season and what weather is expected for that particular shift change. Today, we did 5 cans with more kerosene than diesel since temperatures on the summit were around 10 below. I was also told we did more kerosene today since there was more diesel in it from the start of the season; but since we hadn’t ran it until now, we needed to thin out the diesel that remained in it.

So there you go, a little insight in how we fuel our snow tractor. Apart from this ‘exciting’ event, the only noteworthy thing for the day – the lenticular clouds around the summit. They were everywhere and constantly changing. If it wasn’t for the cold and that other thing, you know, work, I would have stayed out there all day shooting them. They are fascinating to watch as the landscape of the sky changes second after second like a natural lava lamp. So I will leave you with a few pictures from around the summit that I quickly snapped after a few of my weather observations this morning (just click on each highlighted word below and note that the orange color in spots is from smoke and haze in the air, not an editing effect).

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3


Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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