Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday stroll: frozen puddles

This is actually from yesterday's exploration - today I spent picking the brain of Mineralogical Society of America lecturer Lukas Baumgartner, who will be giving a talk to the department tomorrow.

My son and I went out looking for more signs of spring. And we saw more buds and less snow than last week. But he's four, and the most interesting thing we saw was:

Frozen puddles. Most of the puddles were only half-full of water. So... how did the ice grow? I mean, it doesn't grow as big sheets in air. (As snowflakes, yes. But not as frozen tops of puddles.)

I wonder if the puddles filled through the warm day, as melting outpaced infiltration of the water, but then emptied at night, when the water had more time to soak into the soil?

It is mud season in Colorado, but it's a very different thing from New England's mud season. It doesn't take long for snow-free ground to dry out. The road is dry, except beside the snowbanks. And the muddy areas have the oddest soil texture - all lumpy and almost cracked. I don't know if it's the nature of the clay minerals in the soil here or what. (Are the clays swelling and shrinking so noticeably?)

Meanwhile, the ice on the puddles was melting fast... but not fast enough. My son broke the ice on every single one of them.


Ron Schott said...

Say "Hi!" to Lukas for me, Kim. For years we had offices right next to each other in Weeks Hall at UW-Madison. Lukas also led me on some memorable death marches through the Swiss and Italian Alps. Those were the days...

Elli said...

Yeah, Lukas and his death marches must be infamous--I remember my 27th birthday very well since I spent the entire day chasing after Lukas and Tom Foster through the Adula Nappe. Upside we found the appropriate outcrop to look at for my PhD. Downside, I didn't dare drink anything at dinner since I was so exhausted!

coconino said...


I notice the same phenomenon in my early morning dog walks. I was thinking more freeze/thaw expansion in the very water-logged and gumbo-y soils in my neck of the woods. I suspect the ice forms on top of flowing water, then the flow stops via freeze, leaving an ice-covered voids for children and dogs to have fun with.