Snow in a yard.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Objects that are bright or white appear to be so because they reflect the majority of light that strikes them.  As a result, they also reflect heat back into the atmosphere.  The expanse of snow in the above photograph is an example-the brighter areas are in direct sunlight and appear white due to the reflection of the sun’s rays.  The accompanying shadow areas appear darker due to the absorption of the light.

 

Autumn leaves that a laying across a snow bank.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Objects that are dark or black do the opposite:  they absorb the light and therefore retain the accompanying heat.  These leftover autumn leaves are much darker than the surrounding snow and therefore will absorb more of the sun’s light and heat.

Autumn leaves melting into the snow bank.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

As a result of that absorption, the darker and warmer leaves begin to melt down through the snow.

Autumn leaves melting into the snow bank-closer view.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This phenomenon is pretty easy to demonstrate in the backyard and, on this scale, does not really create any reason for alarm.  The same cannot be said when the same effect occurs on a global scale.

Dr. Jason Box refers to “dark snow”, which is the particulate pollution that enters the atmosphere and then dissipates across the ice sheets of Greenland.  This matter, called cryoconite,  absorbs light and heat and therefore leads to a much quicker melting of the ice and snow, just as the darker leaves are melting into the snow in the above photographs.  As the cryoconite builds up, there is less area of whiter ice/snow to reflect the sunlight and heat and greater amounts of darker ice/snow to absorb the heat, which, in turn, increases the melting of the ice.  As the ice sheets themselves contract, there is a subsequent increase in the surface area of darker ocean, which absorbs more heat and leads to an overall increase in ocean temperatures.  These factors conspire to cause the loss of ice and glaciers around the world, the warming of oceans, and overall climate change.

It was this loss of glacial ice that led photographer James Balog to found the Extreme Ice Survey.  This project was featured in the PBS Nova program entitled Extreme Ice and was later expanded and released in theatres as Chasing Ice.  (Mr. Balog’s TED Talk is here.)  All of these are well-worth watching as this post and leaves in the backyard are nothing compared to the information and imagery in the documentaries.

Take care.

 

 

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The Contrast of Winter

February 28, 2015

Small pine tree and some rocks in the snow.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Amid the cold and snow of winter, there are always signs of warmer times to come.

Rosemary protruding from a snow bank.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Such examples stand in stark contrast to the uniform of white.

Leftover fall oak leaf laying on a snow bank.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And it can be quite pleasing to see the diversity of the seasons in one image.

Take care.

Colour

February 24, 2015

A daisy.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

When it is bleak and so very cold, it is useful to find some bright, warm colour.

Hope this helps…

Take care.

P.S. Yes, this is the colour version of the flower used in an earlier post.

Cold

February 19, 2015

BW photograph of an icicle in a crepe myrtle tree.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Someone flying east from Los Angeles, CA to Baltimore, MD tomorrow morning would experience a dramatic difference in temperature as the Baltimore forecast is for a temperature of -2 to -4 degrees Fahrenheit before the windchill factor is applied.  This creates a nearly 70 degree difference for the traveler, with Baltimore being so very much colder.   Flying west would produce the opposite effect and it is modern air travel that makes it possible to have such a discomforting temperature experience in such a relatively short period of time.  As impressive as this scenario would be, air travel does not compare to what Mother Nature can do with air temperatures in short periods of time, as described here.

Such dramatic changes in temperature can present a challenge for “thermoregulation”, which is the ability to maintain a relatively stable body temperature.  Over the millennia, and depending on the native environment, evolution has allowed for organisms to develop a variety of coping mechanisms for thermoregulation, which are detailed in this article.  Folks in the Baltimore area seem to be coping by finding ways to stay indoors.  If that is not possible and going outside is inevitable, people will be adding layers for the same reason that birds puff up their feathers.

Take care and stay warm.

Cold Front

February 15, 2015

BW photograph of a tree with storm clouds circling overhead.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The Northeast portion of the United States continues to be pounded by winter storms, while those a bit further south have had it a bit easier-until this weekend.

BW photograph of storm clouds.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

A cold front blew in with rapidly dropping temperatures and gusting winds.  Storm clouds began to form early in the evening as snow was also expected.

BW photographs of birds flying past with storm clouds in the background.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Those black streaks are birds zipping by…the very strong tailwind seemed to just blow them past.

BW Photograph of a tree with a storm cloudline overhead.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

A snow squall also accompanied the frigid air as temperatures fell into the single digits-below zero if the wind-chill factor was included.

BW photograph of a cornice.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Once on the ground, the snow continued to be pushed along by wind gusts of 20-50 mph.  When the blowing snow encounters a precipice, it will then curve over the edge and harden into a cornice.

BW photograph of a cornice.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

A cornice is a feature common in the mountains and climbers try very, very carefully to avoid them.  Stepping through a cornice usually leads to a very long fall unless one is tethered to another climber or an anchor-such an event plays a major role in the movie Touching the Void.  These cornices were much less threatening and, in fact, resembled a gently cresting wave at the beach.

If only…

Take care.

The Culture of February 14th

February 13, 2015

BW photograph of an orange and yellow daisy.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Tomorrow is February 14 (unless you are in a part of the world where it is already the 14th).  In the United States, February 14 is celebrated as Valentine’s Day.  As it turns out, this day has a very interesting history, as reported by NPR.

Many mark this day with a gift of roses to those who are considered special-the photograph above is decidedly not a rose.  However, given the symbolism involved in the giving of roses, it is not surprising that the cost of roses for Valentine’s Day is often markedly higher than other days of the year, as discussed here.  While one would probably do well to not try to put a price on love, that is essentially what appears to happen.  From a purely economic perspective, such pricing makes sense as this is an opportunity for various retailers, not to mention the countries from whom the roses originate, to capitalize on the emotion of the day.  Florists, of course, are not the only companies to benefit from such a holiday:  greeting card companies, candy manufacturers, and restaurants also provide products that can be used to demonstrate one’s affection.

Discussing Valentine’s Day in business terms does seem to remove some of the lustre from the day.  However, it is just as important to note that for many, Valentine’s Day can be a time of loneliness, sadness, and depression, which are decidedly unpleasant emotions for one to feel.  It is certainly hoped that if such feelings occur, one can find a way to take care of oneself so as to make it through the day and beyond.  Community organizations, places of worship, and mental health centers may be able to provide immediate and longer term assistance.  Sometimes taking a walk helps.

In Finland, February 14 is celebrated as National Friendship Day.  Hearing that on NPR this morning provided a different perspective and is one that seems a bit more inclusive.  I like that.

Take care.

Paw Prints

February 6, 2015

BW photograph of a single squirrel paw print in snow.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW Photograph of a single squirrel paw print and a leaf in the snow.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of overlapping squirrel paw prints in snow.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It is supposed to be in the 40s over the weekend, which means we probably will not be seeing any tracks for a while.

Take care.