1018 = 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 = the approximate number of water molecules that make up a single snowflake. I'm no mathematician, but according to my calculations all of the rain we've had recently only totalled up to 1017 water molecules because still we have no snow. Well, we had a little powdered sugar dusting up around 8,000 feet but that is but a mere memory at this point. Speaking of memory, don’t forget that the next TNSAR general meeting is this coming Monday, November 1st, at the Granlibakken hut. The meeting starts at 6:30pm, hope to see everyone there. The forecast is for sun, by the way.
NY Mayor….Michael Bloomberg recently announced that food stamp recipients in New York City will no longer be able to purchase soda and other sugary beverages with state welfare funds. “This initiative will give New York families more money to spend on foods and drinks that provide real nourishment,” Bloomberg commented in a press release. Bloomberg is probably onto something considering that a 16 ounce soda contains about 12 teaspoons of sugar. Thus you shouldn’t be surprised to find that the right rear compartment of TNSAR’s search truck is no longer stuffed to the brim with Snickers candy bars (which by the way contain about 9 teaspoons of sugar). That’s right folks, from now on out when you reach into that compartment expecting to fill your pockets and packs with Snickers bars you’ll find baby carrots and apple slices instead. Real nourishment for real emergencies. TNSAR is subverting the dominant sloth and bloat paradigm that rules this country, one baby carrot at a time.
Agl….A few weeks ago I attended a cloud seeding lecture presented by a scientist from the Desert Research Institute. I was feeling pretty collegiate. I wore a sweater. I was distinctly hoping to gather some knowledge, add some new tools to my mental toolbox so to speak. But I left the auditorium feeling downhearted and intellectually viscous. The lecture was great, don’t get me wrong, but it was a painful reminder that there is simply so much that I still don’t know! For instance, that there are 1018 water molecules in a single snowflake. I had no idea. Nor did I know that water can remain liquid below zero degrees Celsius (then why do my pipes keep freezing? Yet another thing I don’t know). I did know, or at least I remembered remembering, that silver iodide was the chemical component added to clouds to get them to precipitate. But I didn’t know why. Silver iodide, it turns out, is the chemical of choice for cloud seeding because, wait let me get my notes, because silver iodide has a similar crystalline structure to ice and therefore serves as a good replacement cloud condensation nuclei. Add silver iodide to a cloud without condensation nuclei but with lots of liquid water that is below zero degrees Celsius and voilà, snowflakes fall from the sky, cover your windshield, and force you to go out and shovel the driveway. And that got me to thinking….how come no one has built a portable cloud seeding machine (picture a portable shoulder-mounted grenade launcher that sprays out huge plumes of silver iodide)? No more scraping the windshield and shoveling the driveway before you go out skiing. Now you can load up the skis, drive out to the parking lot of Jake’s Peak, shoot a load of silver iodide into the sky and BAM! Instant powder day. Take a few laps then go home and shovel out the driveway. I know, brilliant, simply brilliant. Patent pending. I’m putting my sweater back on.
Ode to Uniqueness….No, silly you’re not the only one who has ever wondered if two snowflakes could be identical. Many people have sat outside and froze their butts off pondering the same question. No one, it turns out, quite as famous as Wilson Alwyn “Snowflake” Bentley. Mr. Snowflake spent his entire life (some might say psychotic life) in pursuit of proof that no two snowflakes were alike. He ended up somewhat famous, at least in snowflake circles, and published scientific dissertations in National Geographic, Nature, Popular Science, and Scientific American. What made him famous was not his writing, but rather his photographs of snowflakes and the photographic techniques he developed to capture the images. Waxing poetic, Bentley spoke of snowflakes as, “…tiny miracles of beauty…” and “…ice flowers…” Unfortunately, but not surprisingly since he did spend his entire life freezing his butt off pondering snowflakes, Wilson Alwyn “Snowflake” Bentley died of pneumonia. Fortunately he is immortalized by his wonderful photographs and by a children’s book, Snowflake Bentley, which won the 1999 Caldecott Medal for best illustrated children’s book. Just thought you might want to know...
Not Always….a happy ending. Search and Rescue operations are not meant to be fun. Often times they are indeed, surprisingly fun. Howling wind, sideways snow, zero visibility, colder than a…well, just plain freezing, you know, fun. Other times Search and Rescue operations are distinctly un-fun. Such is the case with a search that occurred a few weeks ago in the foothills of Placer County near Foresthill. A male individual went missing sometime late on Saturday night and was found deceased on the following Tuesday. While this kind of search is difficult enough because of the fatality, it was all the more difficult because the missing individual took his own life. While some may argue that he is, “…better off dead…,” because this individual had a deeply troubled criminal history, I can’t help but feel for the searchers who responded to the call. We SAR people are usually pretty well trained in navigation, survival, first aid, technology, avalanche awareness etc. etc., but more often than not, we know very little about how to deal with the emotional trauma that surfaces unexpectedly during, and especially after, fatal search and rescue events. There are resources, Placer County Chaplains are always available for debriefing events after particularly nasty searches, and many of us have taken advantage of these resources over the course of our tenure with TNSAR. But unfortunately you never know when you’re going to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or on the wrong search at the wrong time. Just make sure you keep your mouth shut.
Hoping that NEVER happens to you….