Different precipitation(s)

The weather in North Cork has changed significantly. The temperature has risen (according to the thermometer), but it feels much colder! Yesterday we had rain and just a little sleet. Today it seems to be rain only.

The birds (large and small) seem to be less active today. There was one crow perched on the ridge of the garage roof, but even he is gone. There is no sign of the small birds on the patio. I’m going to check the bird-feeders in the front garden and then leave a handful of seeds on the patio. Perhaps the birds have eaten all the seeds that were there (there’s no point in them visiting a restaurant that doesn’t have anything on the menu!). And as if to taunt me, a robin has appeared!

More on ice: as a lubricant and as an adhesive

It’s now St Stephen’s Day (26th December or “Boxing Day” England). Christmas night was very cold here in Ireland. The thermometer in my car indicated -7 degrees Celcius, and the one associated with the house (which has a rather sheltered external sensor) said -5. Whichever way you look at it, that’s darned cold.

Although we had no snow falling, Christmas day started out “white”. Then the air temperature started to rise and the rain started to fall, softening and washing a way most of the snow that was lying on the ground. Unfortunately the ground temperature did not rise that much, and in places the rain turned into sheets of ice, making any movement outside potentially hazardous. My mother-in-law (who lives a few miles away) reported that it took her nearly one and a half hours to return the 3 or so miles from Mass because during the service the roads had become to treacherous.

Today we woke to find that it had rained again in the night and that the drive and any paths around our house were covered with a thin film of ice. This is bad enough where the ice is visible and appears slick. In places like that, the need for caution is obvious. Much worse are the places where the ground appears to be clear of ice but is in face very slippery. Conditions under foot could reasonably be described as “treacherous”. A further surprise awaited me when I tried to open the garage door (roller shutter), to bring some peat briquettes in for the fire. The door was completely stuck! Once I had freed it (with the help of a kettle of boiling water), I found that the rubber seal at the base had been stuck to the ground by a film of ice (and only for a foot or so of its length. It just shows how strong ice is).

In conclusion; it’s nasty outside, it’s warm inside, I’m staying put for the rest of the day!

Ice Crystals

It’s still cold here. The sun is shining and sky is clear, except for a few wispy high-altitude clouds, and is that pale blue colour I associate with intense cold.

While digging coal from the bunker earlier this morning I noticed the snow had changed overnight. I can see where moisture has condensed direct from the air and extended the crystals, froming little whiskers, some a couple of millimetres long. It’s very pretty to look at close up, and gives the snow a sort of “knobbly” appearance from a distance.

When on a walk down to the village a little later I started thinking about “why does traffic turn snow to slush?” (assuming no use of salt). There seem to be two candidate explanations:

  1. The traffic gives energy to the snow, raising its temperature briefly,
  2. Increased pressure decreases the freezing point of water. This is sometimes demonstrated by the “wire passing through the block of ice” experiment, and is given as the explanation for why ice skates glide over the surface of the ice so well (but there is some debate about whether this is in fact correct).

I doubt I will bother to do the sums over Christmas.


I’m sitting in my usual (warm) spot, looking out of the patio windows. It’s amazing how much separation double-glazing can create between us and the outside world. According to the thermometer, the inside temperature is +18.5 Celcius (which is ok, but not warm for living space) and the outside temperature is -1.5 Celcius (which is probably considered tropical in some parts of the world, but I think is darned cold). That means there is a 20 degrees Celcius temperature difference across two panes of glass and the intervening 1 cm of dry air, or whatever it is. I’ve just reached out to touch the window. The glass is cold, but not expecially so.

There has been no new snow for the last couple of days, though I thought I saw some flakes falling a few minutes ago. There has certainly been no thaw! The air temperature has been around zero and the snow has remained but it has now become a crisp crust which covers almost every surface.

We feed the wild birds in our garden. It is quite surprising how much they consume. I can almost see the level of seeds and peanuts falling in the bird feeders we have suspended from a tree-branch in our front garden. I remember reading somewhere that a small bird (sparrow or similar) can lose a significant part of its body mass in one winter night, so they need a substantial input of food to sustain themselves. One of my daughters decided it would be a good idea to scatter a handful of seeds and nuts on the patio. I have been watching the birds gathering them up. I’m not sufficiently knowledgable that I can identify them all, but I have seen a robin, several sparrows and two or three other different species, not counting the two varieties of crow, who are reluctant to approach the house. The birds are so confident that they will come to within inches of the window. They make an entertaining spectacle.

Winter evening, and a book review of “Flow”

It’s evening and I’m taking a step towards making regular updates to this blog. If I succeed then this will be a public part of regular journal writing and “reflection”, all part of my new life. Wish me luck!

The evening meal is over and my family are sitting around, each doing their own activities: two reading, one drawing a cartoon strip and one (me) writing a journal (this). The television is chattering away in the corner, providing background noise, but otherwise being ignored. The fire is glowing warmly in the grate. For those of you who are not familiar with it, the smell of burning peat is particularly evocative.

This morning I walked down to the village again. I decided to exercise a pair of boots I haven’t used for several years. These are heavy leather boots, as opposed to the light canvas ones I have grown used to using. At first they felt rather stiff, but as time passed they became more supple. I think I need an extra pair of socks though. The winter weather has made the wild birds bold. On my way to the village I saw two robins and two wrens, all of which came within an arm’s length.

I’ve spent some of the day “re-making connections”. I’ve sent out several notes and updated stuff in Facebook and LinkedIn. I suppose I should get in the habit of doing this regularly.

And finally the “book review” (“Flow”). I’m in the process of reading this. For anyone (like me) interested in psychology, and particularly “Positive Psychology”, this is a really interesting book. The blurb on the cover over-sells it a bit – “The classic work on how to achieve happiness”, and makes it sound like snake oil. It isn’t like that at all. “Flow” is a state of mind achieved when I am giving my complete attention to an activity and the challenges it presents are well matched to my skills. This state is associated with happiness and personal growth. The author describes the state, why it is desirable and activities (some of which might be surprising) which can be used to bring it about. It’s an accessible mix of academic and popular writing.