The Lope: January 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hoar Frost

We've been favored by a hoar frost twice in January here in Reno County, Kansas. First on the 12th, and again today.

For a hoar frost, you need moist air and we've had lots of fog this month.

Hoar frost happens when the freezing fog condenses on things that have lost enough heat to be below the dew point of the moist air. I've also heard this referred to as "freezing fog", but "hoar frost" is more specific for what's happening now.

A hoar frost isn't your standard fuzzy little coat of Winter white. The crystals are substantial and spiky or feathery.

Around here, it has the advantage of being beautiful but not particularly dangerous in and of itself. The road in this picture on the 12th was not iced, but the tree was frosted. Today, however, many of the streets here in Hutchinson are still icy from the weekend's snow so if you drive out to see the frost, be careful.

It looks like the trees have been flocked, as if for Christmas decoration.

I've read about advection frost, which occurs when cold wind blows over branches and crystal direction is influenced by the wind. Since these crystals were somewhat sideways as if shaped by the north wind, I wonder if that was what was happening here. Perhaps a meteorologist could comment?

And here's some of that sideways action on a seed pod.

It can be a fleeting thing. A few minutes after I took this picture in downtown Hutchinson, the sun came out enough to warm the branches and the frost was gone within 30 minutes. Hoar frost looks great in the sunlight against a deep blue sky, but I was not able to be out and about during that brief window on the 12th.

Here are trees beside the Arkansas River. It's a wondrous effect. If the hoar frost is still out there when you read this, grab a camera and go outside. Remember to play with the exposure compensation a bit in favor of more exposure as there is a lot of white in such photos.

It strikes me that the term "hoar frost" is best spoken in a pirate voice: "Arr, thar be a hoar front upon the mizzen mast." Try it; it's fun.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Happy Kansas Day

No, it's not the cover of progressive rock band, Kansas', first album. This is "Tragic Prelude", artist John Steuart Curry's mural of abolitionist John Brown, on display in the Kansas Statehouse.

Actually, there's not much bloodshed here and there aren't usually tornadoes around - I just like the mural.

By the way, it's the 149th anniversary of our statehood, and it's Friday, so go out and party tonight if you can get your car out of your snowy driveway.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Fun with Condensation

The National Weather Service says the low tonight in Hutchinson, Kansas, will be -7, and the windchill will be 15 to 20 below zero.

On the bright side, the ice and condensation on a window today formed a pleasant picture of a mountain scene with trees below.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Changing Doctors

Sure, it's the end of one decade and the beginning of another; I suppose that's a big deal if you want to give base ten numbers that much power. But to fans of the British sci-fi series, Doctor Who, New Year's Day was all about the end of David Tennant's role as the Doctor.

This was no surprise as it had been reported in the mainstream press in England and the sci-fi press in the US. I was able to watch the New Year's Day special episode in which this happened - The End of Time Part 2 - because within minutes of its conclusion it was being divided and uploaded by a zillion British You Tube users. BBC doesn't seem too concerned at the moment about having these taken down.

Tennant's end was a satisfyingly emotional ride. There were a few bumps, like an annoyingly stereotypical old crone character and a few plot devices that seemed contrived, but it tightened up nicely in the last half. There was also a pleasingly enigmatic female Time Lord who is probably one of those long-term story arc characters they're so good at. Timothy Dalton wasn't bad as the President of the Time Lords, if a bit over-dramatic. It's to early to tell how actor Matt Smith will be as the new incarnation of the Doctor, but I'm suspecting a change from Tennant's accessible nerdiness to a sort of youth-oriented Anglicized rockabilly persona.

Something I really like about Doctor Who is that they do Christmas specials every year that actually air on Christmas Day, though British tourism officials might feel differently because there's always Yuletide peril involved.

2005: mechanical killer Santas and whirling Christmas trees of death
2006: alien vessel shaped like Christmas star fires on London
2007: android Christmas angels kill by throwing halos
2008: giant killer robot in Victorian London
2009: crazy time lord attacks from London

Notice a pattern? Yeah...gotta avoid London at Christmas.

Actually, I've never been in London on Christmas, but I have seen it roll out some Christmas decor early in the season.

Friday, January 01, 2010


Happy New Year, 2010!