Naturalist Notes: December, 2019

>> Naturalist Notes & Musings:

When fall turns to winter, it's time for many wonderful sights in the world of nature. One of my favorites is winter bird activity- and the ease of viewing them in the sleeping majesty of bare forest trees. Another that gets little attention but amazes me every time I see it: needle ice. Needle ice forms when the air temperature is below the freezing point but the subsoil water is above the freezing point. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 degrees Celsius and typically turns to ice. Needle ice is unique, in that the still-liquid soil water wicks up through the soil and forms a network of needle-like columns of ice. After a cold December night you might find needle ice that forms when the air temperature drops, and groundwater rises up in a small but magical display.   

We see it often here at the Nature Center, as it frequently forms in the damp soil of most of our 136 acres. Sometimes the Nature Center's trails can be littered with these cold weather gems. Often, December hikes through our trails can be to the beat of needle ice crunching under foot.

Look for it in damp places in your yard- or better yet, come here one morning and take a stroll. Look up for birds and down for the needle ice! 

See you on the trails!

Marc Gussen, Naturalist


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