snow

Posted by Ellen

A camel is the beast of choice for hauling shepherds on their sled across the steppes of southern Siberia, near the Mongolian border. 

An estimated two million of the two-humped Bactrian camels live today throughout central Asia, most of them domesticated for work as pack animals, a job they've been doing since ancient times. Like their one-humped cousins in north Africa and the Middle East, Bactrian camels are drought-tolerant; they can also survive extreme cold and high altitude.

The shepherds riding in the sled are from the Russian Republic of Tuva, where they tend a flock of sheep and goats that must travel long distances to find good pasturage throughout the year. 

Posted by Ellen

In the wintry weather currently gripping eastern North America, icy mounds of frozen spray, known as sugarloaves, are growing huge atop frozen rivers below not-quite-fully-frozen waterfalls. There's a sugarloaf at the base of Niagara Falls this year, and also one at Montmorency Falls near Québec City; the falls at Montmorency are some 98 feet higher than Niagara and are located almost a thousand kilometers to the northeast, in a climate zone where every winter is plenty cold enough to make a sugarloaf.

The painting shown above, The Ice Cone, by Robert Clow Todd, shows Montmorency Falls and its sugarloaf in the winter of 1845. The place looked pretty much the same when we visited, in the winter of 2004, minus the horses, of course.

Tall, cone-shaped things with slightly blunted tips are often called sugarloaves, especially if they are ski resorts or a mountain in Rio de Janeiro with a statue on top. That's because real, old-school sugarloaves–actual hard, solid loaves of refined sugar–were produced in molds shaped like that. Up until the end of the nineteenth century, when manufacturing processes emerged to refine sugar into a granulated product, people who could afford to buy white sugar–meaning rich people–bought it by the loaf, which might weigh as much as 30 or 35 pounds. They chipped off pieces as needed, using heavy, sharp-edged pliers known as sugar nips.

The sugarloaves pictured below are on display in the Sugar Museum in Berlin.

Posted by Ellen

Mabel sits and yawns on a sunny ridge near Mount Rainier last week, showing off her Happy New Year hat.

Posted by Ellen

Early March in Mongolia is horse-racing season.

Posted by Ellen

Presidents' Day has already come and gone, and they still haven't taken down the Valentine's decorations.

Posted by Ellen

Gravitational waves–the warping of spacetime predicted by Einstein and confirmed the other day by a bunch of astrophysicists–may account for this awesome icicle hanging from a porch roof near Winthrop, Washington.

The way we understand it, which is undoubtedly not correct, the physicists measured data regarding a collision between two black holes and detected gravitational waves propagating outward from the event, kinda like sound waves rippling out from the ringing of the cosmic spacetime bell.

So. Obviously, this here icicle got caught up in some serious gravitational ripples. That, or the snow on the roof was seriously sliding and slumping and refreezing as the icicle was drippily trying to grow (see below). Hope the astrophysicists have ruled out that possible source of noise in their data.

Posted by Ellen

The 170th birthday of Claude Monet in November 2011 was marked by, among other festivities, a Photoshop competition sponsored by FreakingNews.com. The challenge was to Photoshop a composite image introducing modern elements into a Monet painting.

The winning entry, shown above, was submitted by somebody who logged into the competition as azwoodbox. That's a train à grande vitesse, imitating Monet's 1875 train below.

Posted by Ellen

Ten or so days ago, when Philly got whacked by a pretty good thump of snow, this guy was the only one out driving around in the neighborhood, until he wasn't.

He was going the wrong way up 24th Street–and really, why not? There were no other cars on the road. But he slipped and slid, and then he was digging and digging. . . .

One of the neighbors brought him some cardboard, which was eventually helpful, but nobody offered to help him shovel, which might have made a more immediate contribution. (In our own defense, it is noted here that ever since last August, when we moved into an apartment, we no longer own a snow shovel.)

It's warmed up now and rained, and the snow is disappearing. Maybe this next month will bring us more winter, but maybe not.

Posted by Ellen

A surprise autumn cold snap attacked New Zealand's South Island this week, with deep snow burying the mountains and lighter snowfalls covering the ground at elevations as low as 100 meters above sea level. This scene was on the road between Mossburn and Te Anau, near New Zealand's southwestern coast.

According to MetService meteorologist Richard Finnie, the wintry storm was like a bit of June in April: "It's not an early winter," he said, "just an early taste of winter." The cold front was expected to sweep northward across the country and then give way to more normal fall conditions within a few days.