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Snow on Toms Down

Snow, Ice and Thaw

After several days of bitterly cold winds, warmer, moister air started to move in from the South on Thursday, resulting in heavy snow. This area has any snowfall, on average, for less than 4 days a year and snow on the ground maybe once or twice in a winter, so this much snow is unusual. We had a little freezing rain on Thursday night and Friday too. This occurs when rain falls (because the temperature at cloud height is too warm for snow) but then freezes as it falls through colder air nearer the ground. Often, the raindrops “supercool”: they cool to well below freezing point but do not turn into ice until they hit the ground, coating whatever they fall on in a layer of ice. The effect was to put a thin, hard crust on top of powder snow and to coat car roofs and windows in a layer of ice. It made walking on untrodden snow an unexpected pleasure as there was a satisfying crunch with each step, but things were not at all slippery as the snow below was dry and cold. It was a different story where people walked or cars drove. Compacted snow with a layer of smooth ice on top was very difficult to cross. There was also the usual problem where salt had been spread, of thick, unpleasant slush and pools of water lying because the slush blocked drainage.

It was lovely to be out of doors on Friday, especially if you were properly bundled up. There were lots of people using slopes in the Forest for toboganning and a “snow day” when schools were closed and most people did not try to travel to work had a friendly, good humoured atmosphere, helped by the quiet as roads were almost empty.

The thaw began on Friday evening and by Saturday morning, a lot of snow was already gone, sped on its way by rain falling from time to time. Friday into Saturday night was full of the sound of dripping, and the occasional crash as snow slid off roofs. We are very close to the sea here, and are thawing more quickly. Inland, it is still very wintry in places, but in the New Forest green and brown is quickly replacing white.