Ghosts

_C1_9921.JPGThe past few days have been a battle between air, water and light. The recent cold snap that broke today kept northwest Arkansas below 20 or so degrees, freezing over creeks and ponds pretty easily. But even that kind of cold yields to the warmth of daylight. Water, meanwhile, is good at retaining its heat and can stay liquid in lakes and stronger streams for days of subfreezing temperatures. But the sun sets and the cold air can triumph over some of those waters, at least for a few hours. Back and forth the energy goes.

The constant exchange of heat molds the area’s water into all sorts of ice. I think it helped grow the frost flowers.

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These ghostly ribbons grow from the stems of certain plants. I never expected to see them on a morning hike around Lake Wedington, but whichever plant grew these is apparently all over that area, especially on its dam.

The water in the plants’ stems freezes and expands, splitting their sides. Water from the roots keeps coming out and freezing, slowly pushing through the cracks like icy noodles. The process leaves delicate bundles that seemed to glow in the early light. Though they’re made of ice, these flowers can only bloom if water in the plants and the ground under them is still warm enough to be liquid. Without all of that warm sunlight, in other words, they might not have formed.

I probably have that warmth to thank for my other discovery this morning: singing ice. Turn up your volume for this one:

 

The layer of ice along just one corner of the lake trilled, like dozens of frogs singing to each other, as liquid water jostled it from beneath. I suspect the cause for the trilling is the same as the one behind the strange noise that sounds when you throw a pebble or stick onto a frozen lake. A smack or a cracking sound contains higher and lower pitches that travel at different speeds through the ice layer, so they reach the ear at different times. The result is a chirp. (The same principle is behind the sound of “Star Wars” blasters and the rainbow created by light through a prism.)

This all goes to show how much the characteristics of ice depend on where the water is and what it’s doing when it freezes. Flowing water, for example, might freeze clear and smooth but often becomes opaque white from bubbles if it’s tumbling down a fall. Peaceful water freezes into sheets that sometimes overlap in abstract patterns or fit together like angular puzzle pieces. Wedington and Lake Fayetteville provided examples of them all.

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_C1_9939.JPG(Lake Fayetteville shots begin here:)

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_C1_9754.JPGIce’s variety and beauty will forever mesmerize me. Thanks for looking.

Dan

Between the storms

_C1_8531.JPGThis month has brought a whole lot of rain: more than 7 inches so far this month, with another 8 (!) possible between now and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. Yesterday’s storm swept away a homeless camp in Fayetteville, caused other flash flooding and caught houses on fire with its lightning, and that was with only 3 inches of rain. The ground is almost completely saturated, so be careful of all the runoff this weekend, and especially don’t drive through it.

The pauses in the mayhem, on the other hand, have brought great chances to see local waterfalls at their full power. The one above is a cascade at one end of Lake Wedington, which sits in a nearby patch of the Ozark National Forest. I took an early morning hike on the trail along the lake’s edge Sunday, my first time there.

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_C1_8524.JPGThe waterfall drains the lake around the trail’s halfway point and was absolutely gushing, tumbling 50 or so feet and throwing off curtains of mist. The torrent blocked me from going any further — the trail continues somewhere on the other side of this mist. But I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

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_C1_8642.JPGToday brought another break in the rain, so I hurried down to Devil’s Den State Park this evening. Some of the waterfalls there are going as strong as I’ve seen.

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By this weekend, the falls might look more like this. Stay dry, everyone.

And at the risk of being way too presumptuous or commercial, if you all like any images in this or other posts, you can get prints of some of them (in much higher resolution) here. It might take a few days after a post for the photos to appear, but I keep it pretty up to date. Feel free to tell me which, if any, you’d like to have available.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

Thunder and Flood

IMG_1964No snow for the Ozarks this Christmas, just rain, rain, rain. As of this posting, between 6 inches and 10 inches have fallen almost without pause during the past two days along a band from Oklahoma to Indiana, according to the National Weather Service; for some comparison, here in Fayetteville that’s about the typical amount during November and December combined. It’s not forecast to let up until late tomorrow, either. In the meantime, we have a lot of the image above: overflowing ditches and streams and rivers, sunken roads, flooded fields and golf courses, and constantly overcast skies.

The amount of water flowing around here is almost indescribable. White-water rapids cascade from every bluff and cliff, bridges are overrun and, whether it’s in a gentle shower or a thunderstorm, the rain keeps falling, channeled by northwest Arkansas’ hills into torrents of opaque brown water.

IMG_1973Take Devil’s Den State Park, for example. The photo above shows one camping area along Lee Creek, which at this point usually spreads out placidly into a little lake as it approaches a dam built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Here’s what the dam usually looks like, as shown in a photo from April 2014:

_C1_4371Here’s what it looked like today (notice the turquoise metal spike for scale):

IMG_1980I almost wondered whether the dam was still there, the water poured over it so fast. The roar and spray drowned out anything softer than a yell. On the surrounding hillsides, newly created streams and waterfalls carved through the leaf-covered forest floor like threads of pearl through rust.

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IMG_2007We haven’t seen rain like this since May and June, when about a foot fell around here and led to flooding of its own (You might remember the photos of the inundated golf course). Wacky and dangerous weather has struck across the country, with record warmth and several deaths from tornadoes in the past few days. Stay safe out there, everybody. Turn around, don’t drown, the whole bit. It could take days for all of this water to calm down. Thank goodness this isn’t snow, and brace yourself: It’s supposed to drop below freezing tomorrow night.

Hope you had a good holiday! Thanks for looking.

Dan