Category: "Tyndall & vapor figures"

The Snowflake’s Closest of Kin

February 21st, 2022

[From 2006 through 2012, I contributed annual articles to the annual newsletter "Snow Crystals" for the Wilson Bentley Historical Society. That newsletter is no longer available, so I will repost my articles here, starting with this one from 2006.]

Wilson Bentley is well known to readers here for his photomicrographs of snow crystals. Snow, however, was only one of the many ‘water wonders’ that held his fascination (ref. 1). Some of these wonders were made of liquid water, such as dew, and some, like the snow crystal, were frozen water (ice).

The frozen type he called “The snowflake’s closest of kin”, and they included hoarfrost, rime, windowpane frost, and ice flowers (2). To obtain photographs of any of them with the quality obtained by Bentley is difficult even now, which is yet another reason to admire Bentley’s skill and perseverance.

On the inside, these ‘kin’ all have the same crystal structure. But they appear different on the outside, largely due to the different ways the water in the surroundings gets to the ice surface. There are many distinct kin because the surrounding water can be in various states (i.e., ice, liquid, and vapor) and there are many ways that each state of water can get to the ice surface. I’ll focus here on snow crystals, hoarfrost, rime, windowpane frost, and ice flowers. These forms are commonly seen by many of us, and have been observed by people for a very long time. So it is easy to think, as I probably once did, that they are well understood by science. But this view is quite mistaken. Yes, we know they all consist of H2O molecules and we know something about the structure of ice, but how exactly they form contain many mysteries. I’ll describe briefly what Bentley thought of them, and what I think is known and not known about them.

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The Curious World of Ice and Snow: Part 3 of 3

February 8th, 2020

These 14 slides are the final (third) section of my Science Cafe talk. (Plus two slides added as an introduction.) As in the previous section (previous post), this section mostly has ice forms that come from the melt, but the ice shapes here are a little "hairier". And at the end we return to forms influenced by the vapor. As with all these forms, I doubt any could have been predicted before their discovery. Nature is complicated, so Nature surprises us.

The Curious World of Ice and Snow: Part 3 of 3

Click on any image to enlarge it.

As before, the green font below shows the content of this section. The first five cases involve melt flow along surfaces and in narrow pores. Remember that melt is another name for liquid. (The term melt is more accurate though, as it implies pure water, whereas liquid could be water mixed with any solute. For example, salt water is a liquid, but it is not melt.) As mentioned in part 2, their formation from the melt means that they tend to grow relatively fast and large.

The Curious World of Ice and Snow: Part 3 of 3

First up is perhaps the most common. Do you know what is going on when the ground becomes crunchy?

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