Sunday, February 1, 2015

Random Facts About.... Winter

The cold season. The season when everything sleeps, except for us. There are always lots of conflicting opinions when we talk about winter. Someone loves it, others hates it, most are in between. But you can't deny it has something magical. The bare trees, the snow lightly falling from grey clouds, covering the grass, the freezing cold all around and the grayish sky give an undeniable charm to the environment. Maybe going outside without a heavy coat isn't a smart idea, but looking at the world falling asleep from your window, with a hot cup of tea in your hands and a warm quilt around you, surely is. Unfortunately most of us hates to get up at 6 am and feel the freeze while going to work/school/whatever. But it could be a great idea snooping around some of the unusual and funny facts about this frosty season. So get ready to be curiously frozen with these Random Facts About Winter.

1. Snowflakes start as ice crystals that freeze around small pieces of dust in the air. As they fall to the earth, the ice crystals join together to form snow flakes. The shape of each snowflake is determined by temperature, wind, the amount of time it takes to fall to the ground, and the amount of water vapor in the air. There are billions of different they can join together. So it's completely impossible to find two identical snowflakes.
2. The world’s largest snowflake was reported to be 15 inches across and 8 inches thick. The Guinness Book of World Records states that this giant snowflake was found in Fort Keogh, Montana on January 28, 1887. But this is just a rumor, there's nothing sure. By the time it was noticed, it probably got lost.
3. Are you feeling blue these days? Well, in this case you've a SAD problem. And I'm not being obvious. In fact, the “winter blues” were first diagnosed in 1984. And have recently been named Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). According to the Mayo Clinic, S.A.D. is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you’re like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue in winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.
4.  Snow is not white. Snow is actually clear and colorless. According to the Snow and Ice National Data Center: “The complex structure of snow crystals results in countless tiny surfaces from which visible light is efficiently reflected. What little sunlight is absorbed by snow is absorbed uniformly over the wavelengths of visible light thus giving snow its white appearance”. So, the reflection of all the colors gives a white color as a result, but technically snow is translucent.
5. All snowflakes have 6 sides, And there's a chemical reason behind it, but is going to be a little techy: the oxygen atom has a particularly strong attraction to the electron clouds of the two hydrogen atoms and pulls them closer. This leaves the two hydrogen ends more positively charged, and the center of the “V” more negatively charged. When other water molecules “brush up” against this growing snowflake, strong forces between the negatively charged and positively charged parts of different particles cause them to join together in a very specific three-dimensional pattern with a six-sided symmetry. Each water molecule that joins the snowflake reflects this pattern until eventually we can see its macroscopic six-sided shape.
6. Winter cold kills more than twice as many Americans as summer heat does.
7. Every winter, at least one septillion (that’s 1 followed by 24 zeros, just saying) snow crystals fall from the sky.
8. A New Zealand  group of insects called Weta, considered as some of the biggest in the world, freezes completely solid when temperatures drop during the winter. However, when temperatures warm back up, the insect unfreezes, thaws, and resumes its activities.
9. Other insects, however, don't have the cryogenic skill, and so they have to prepare for winter by creating their own “antifreeze”.During the fall, insects produce more glycerol, which gives their body a “super-cooling ability” by allowing bodily fluids to drop below freezing without causing ice damage. Glycerol also lowers the freezing point, which makes insects more cold tolerant and protects their tissue and cells from ice damage. Their glycerol levels drop again during the spring.
10. The Chinese plum is one of the very few plants that bloom in the winter. It is one of the most beloved blossoms in Chinese art and poetry. Because its fragrance can be noticed even in the winter, it came to symbolize hope, perseverance, beauty, and purity as well as the transition of life.


11. The world's tallest snowman was built to bring attention to the Bethel (Maine) area and allow the total community to come together for a project. The people of Bethel and the surrounding area worked 5 months to plan and build the 113 foot 7 inches tall snowman which broke the former record held by Yamagata, Japan of 96 feet 7 inches. On Wednesday, February 17, 1999 (precisely at 9:30 a.m.) the record was officially broken. Two town officials, a regional photographer, a videographer, a licensed professional surveyor and the president of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce were on hand to verify the actual size and height for the Guinness Book of World Records. My record is actually 30 inches.......but at least I've tried.
12. Chionophobia is fear of snow. The term is derived from the Greek words chion (snow) and phobos (fear). One of the largest components to this fear is the idea of becoming snowbound. A forecast calling for a snowstorm can bring on cold sweats, panic attacks, and even an unrealistic feeling of doom and dread. So they will rarely venture out into the snow for fear of being trapped in.
13. The Southern Hemisphere typically has milder winters than the Northern Hemisphere. This is because the Southern Hemisphere has less land and a more maritime climate.
14. One inch of snow will produce just less than 1/10 of an inch of water when melted. Ten inches of snow will melt down to only 1 inch of water.
15. Even nowadays, the Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia change their names and take on the names of their ancestors at the beginning of winter. They believe this will protect them from the spirits of the dead who return at this time of year.
16. Millions of Monarch Butterflies fly to Mexico for winter. They are the only insect that migrates to a warmer climate that is 2,500 miles away each year. When winter inevitably comes, they like to hibernate in the same trees every year.
17. Winter in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres is caused by Earth’s axis in that hemisphere being tilted away from the sun. Meteorologists often define winter as the three calendar months with the lowest average temperatures. For the Northern Hemisphere, this is December, January, and February. But if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you won't agree with this. In fact, due to the tilt of Earth's rotation relative to the Sun and the ecliptic plane, summer is from December to March and winter is from June to September. September 22nd or 23rd is the vernal equinox and March 20th or 21st is the autumnal equinox.
18. Industry experts have noticed that a colder-than-usual winter probably would not reduce the number of insects for the following spring and summer. What would have more of an impact on their numbers would be an out-of-season cold snap because insects have not yet adapted to environmental change.
19. Some plants, both annual and perennials, require “vernalization” (from Latin vernus, meaning “of the spring”) to flower. This means that a plant needs to experience a period of low winter temperature to initiate or increase the flowering process. Researchers believe this ensures that seed production begins in spring and summer rather than in the fall. After vernalization, plants have acquired the ability to flower.
20. To survive winters, many animals have developed various survival techniques, such as migrating, hibernating, storing food, changing colors, or growing thicker fur. But now imagine for a moment a Siberian Tiger or a European Hare stuck in the snow. Their natural colors, which are perfect for their actual (or summer) habitat would start working against them. In the first case these animals wouldn't be able to sneak up on preys and pounce, and in the latter case they would be a prime target for predators. Luckily for many Arctic animals, this need for camouflage is met by an uncanny ability to change their color to white during winter: the arctic fox, arctic hare, ptarmigan, barren-ground caribou, and ermine all change colors.
21. Bismarck (North Dakota) holds the record for the most snow angels at one time. On February 17, 2007, several schools joined forced to create 8,962 snow angels.
22. The coldest winter on Earth occurs at the Polar Plateau in Antarctica. The high elevations of the Antarctic Plateau, combined with its high latitudes, and its extremely long sunless winters, mean that the temperatures here are the lowest in the world in most years, comparable only with central Siberia in the Northern Hemisphere). The average mean annual temperature is -72.9° Fahrenheit (-58°C). But in 1974, Russia hit -96° Fahrenheit in Siberia during winter, making Russia the coldest inhabited country in the world. 
23. Did you know that a single snowstorm can drop more than 39 million tons of snow, carrying the energy equivalent to 120 atomic bombs?
24. A team of 600 amazing sculptors unveiled at the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival held on December 20, 2007 – ‘Romantic Feelings’ – the world’s largest snow sculpture. The Olympic Games were the source of inspiration for the staggering 656 ft long and 115 ft tall sculpture. This magnificent ‘landscape’ was the centerpiece of the festival opened in the Heilongjiang Province, one of China’s coldest places.
25. Many mosquito species live through the winter as adults. In the fall, mosquitos mate, but only the male dies. The females spend the cold months hidden in a protected place, such as an animal borrow or hollow log.
26. Throughout time, snowflakes have fascinated many eminent scientists and philosophers, but the man who literally devoted his entire life to showing us the diversity and beauty of snowflakes is American Wilson A. Bentley (February 9, 1865 – December 23, 1931), the first man to capture snow crystals on film. Known as “The Snowflake Man”, Bentley captured more than 5000 photographs of snowflakes. He received international acclaim in the 19th century for his pioneering work in the fields of photomicrography, because he perfected a process of photographing snowflakes before they either melted or sublimed. Bentley’s legacy is an extraordinarily rich one: a vast library of detailed journals, books, published articles and over 5000 photographs of perfect icy miracles.


And that's it... I hope you enjoyed this Seasonal Article. Now it's time for us to hibernate until Spring. Wouldn't be great to sleep for an entire season. Maybe a little boring, but it could be a funny experience. Never Stop Snooping Around, and HAVE A FROZEN WINTER, but keep yourselves warm. 

4 comments:

  1. [ Smiles ] Thank you for sharing these facts about snow.

    I live in the Caribbean; it does not snow there.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for being here !! I'm very happy to introduce you to this fantastic phenomenon. It means a lot to me :)

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  2. I love winter, it's my favourite time of the year! We Italians aren't so used to cold weather and snow (try and go to Finland, they know something about it) but it's fascinating, anyway :)

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    Replies
    1. I know what you're talking about. I'd love to go to Finland, It surely is fantastically cold :)

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