I don’t know about you, but I never heard about a Polar Vortex until this winter! I think they used to be called Alberta Clippers…
As you’ve probably noticed (even down south!), the first month of 2014 has been very cold and snowy. Here in central Ohio, we’ve been seeing a phenomenon that we don’t usually see- something called Snow Rollers.
Snow Rollers are nature’s attempt to build snowmen without young mittened hands. To be a little more scientific about it:
A snow roller is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which large snowballs are formed naturally as chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind, picking up material along the way, in much the same way that the large snowballs used in snowmen are made.
Unlike snowballs made by people, snow rollers are typically cylindrical in shape, and are often hollow since the inner layers, which are the first layers to form, are weak and thin compared to the outer layers and can easily be blown away, leaving what looks like a doughnut or Swiss roll. Snow rollers have been seen to grow as large as two feet in diameter.
A key ingredient (after snow) in this weather confection is a lot of wind, and that we’ve had, believe me. For more than a few nights one could hear the wind howling strongly outside.
But it’s not just any snow that’ll turn into rollers. There should be a layer of ice upon which wet and loose snow has fallen.
If the wind is strong enough, this can cause a small concentration of snow to roll along the surface, gathering more material, which grows larger…
Snow Rollers can be seen on hilly areas as the snow rolls downhill, but with high winds involved, they’ll be found on flat surfaces as well.
Yesterday I saw Snow Rollers in parks, on farms, in yards, even on the frozen Scioto River. Some places had many, others none, so the initial conditions had to be just right.
Now how cool is that? I realize that out on the Great Plains these are probably a common winter sight, but not here. You never know what nature will come up with next!