How Many Words for Snow?

So it’s been a couple of weeks. The President’s Day weekend, which was the third weekend of February this year, was so unseasonably warm that I was outside pruning my Japanese maples.

The forecast for the next day was for snow but it had been 62 the day before. Even I thought, really? Is that possible?

Well, it was. And of course, because it had been so warm for the prior few days, the snow didn’t appear to be sticking to the pavement. Nevertheless, I took the safe route down the lawn as I always do when it snows.

Except that in this particular instance, that wasn’t the safest route. Because it had been so warm, the snow was extremely wet–wetter than in my photos on Friday. It caked into the treads of my boots and turned them into skis and down I went onto my hip. The dog looked at me like “why are you playing? I thought we were going for a walk .”

Anyway, again, because it had been warm, the ground wasn’t frozen, so I was just a bit bruised and sore.

The next few days gave rise to our next few words for frozen fun: black ice and freezing fog. For the uninitiated, black ice is where the pavement looks wet but is actually frozen.

Freezing fog is different. It’s like dew, or fog that comes down from above and freezes on the surface. Same effect as black ice–a skim coating of ice almost invisible to the eye–but black ice is usually residual moisture freezing on the pavement whereas freezing fog comes down from above.

There’s definitely more but we rarely experience them here in New England. We do get dry, powdery snow on occasion. Not the lovely dry champagne powder like they have out West, but soft, and light and flaky nevertheless. It’s rare, but it does happen.

But we more often get heavy, wet snow, especially this time of year, that has the consistency of wet concrete or mashed potatoes–lumpy mashed potatoes at that.

So you can see that although this isn’t a place like Alaska where they say the Native peoples have 40 words for snow, we do have quite a vocabulary to describe our winter weather here–and I am sure that I have left some of it out (particularly the colorful cuss words!)

5 thoughts on “How Many Words for Snow?

  1. John Hric March 6, 2023 / 10:32 am

    They might as well change the forecast to strange rollercoaster weather. And just leave it there for a while. Hope the bruises heal.

    • gardendaze March 6, 2023 / 10:42 am

      I am definitely on the mend–thanks for your kind words! I still laugh when I think of the dog’s reaction though–and I am very lucky to be able to laugh about the whole thing!

  2. Cathy March 7, 2023 / 8:48 am

    Your title grabbed me as I have just been reading ‘Fifty Words for Snow’! We had some of that wet heavy snow a couple of weeks ago too, breaking branches off and bringing trees down. In fact we have had a bit of everything except that normal nice snow that you can build a snowman with. Hope the brusies are healing, and take care!

    • gardendaze March 7, 2023 / 9:39 am

      Thank you! Yes, it’s later winter. I think the days of that nice fluffy snow are over and we’ll be shoveling the “wet concrete” I described until it stops falling. Sigh,

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