This is March 11th and we still have 16 inches of snow on the ground (and today is the first day of the high school spring sports season for tennis (with which I help), and track and softball!). Our winter came a bit late this year and over the past couple weeks we have received 24-36” of snow in the area with temperatures down to –15 to –20 degrees several nights. Pretty unusual for March! But, since we are dependent on having a good “storehouse of snow” in the mountains to provide spring and summer runoff for our streams, lakes and underground water table, we are very grateful. Thank you, Lord.
It is all part of God’s plan for sustaining the earth He created. God, speaking through Isaiah the prophet, said: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:10,11). Just as moisture sent to earth from the heavens accomplishes God’s intended purpose in helping meet human needs, so the Word of God likewise produces its intended results in accomplishing God’s spiritual purposes.
While the snow creates a lot of work for us in removal (we have a long driveway!), it also meets a very real need. We would be in big trouble if we did not get an appreciable amount of snow each winter. On average, each 10” of snow provides 1” of water. It also provides lots of opportunity for recreation for those who enjoy winter sports of skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, etc. We enjoy cross-country skiing and will still have plenty of snow for several more weeks of skiing. (Unfortunately, Kathy had back surgery this winter so is unable to get out and ski). We especially enjoy skiing at our local golf course, which is one of the locations they groom for cross country skiers. It is right at the base of the beautiful Cabinet Mountain Wilderness, so the view is spectacular on a clear day and it is so quiet and peaceful. And at times—when it is fairly cold out—the snow is like acres of diamonds reflecting the rays of the sun—so beautiful! We do try to walk each day from our place and several times—on cold, crisp days— the snow in the fields by our driveway has been like glittering diamonds.
We also enjoy watching it snow, knowing how God, in His wisdom, created the heavens and the earth such that under the right conditions, snowflakes form in the atmosphere where cold water droplets freeze onto dust particles. And depending on the temperature and humidity of the air where the snowflakes form, the ice crystals can grow into a myriad of different shapes. Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) from Jericho, Vermont, was the first person to capture photographs of snowflakes through the use of a microscope attached to a camera. His collection of 5,000 snowflake images introduced us to the astounding diversity of snowflakes. The colder the air temperature, the simpler the shape, and the warmer the temperature, the more complex, with extensive branching patterns. The most intricate snowflake patterns are formed during warm and wet conditions.
Kenneth G. Libbrecht, chairman of the Physics Department at the California Institute of Technology, says snowflakes form by two different crystallization processes—faceting and branching. Faceting produces six-sided prisms giving snowflakes their famed six-sided symmetry. Branching produces random, complex features that extend away from the growing hexagonal prisms. As it tumbles through the clouds and changing temperatures and humidities, the final size and shape of each flake is determined. You may find two that appear identical under a microscope, but if you look at the molecular level, they are far from identical. “At the molecular level, the probability that two flakes formed identically is mathematically impossible given the effectively infinite number of ways to create a snowflake. The number of possible ways to array the branches and side branches is far, far, far greater than even the total number of snowflakes that have ever fallen on earth!”
The diamond-like appearance of the snow when it is cold is called “snow sparkle,” and is due to the sun reflecting off the individual ice crystals in the snow. When sunlight hits the crystals, they have a mirror effect. Rays of light hit the individual ice crystals lying on the uppermost layer of snow and reflect light back up. The best type of winter precipitation for “snowflake sparkle” is cold, dry snow because the individual ice crystals within the dry snow usually remain separated, whereas with wet snow, the crystals are larger and attach themselves to other snowflakes (making it easier to make snowballs or a snowman!).
Another glittering weather phenomenon similar to “snowflake sparkle” is what meteorologists call “diamond dust,” which is tiny ice crystals that seem to float in the air, often under bright blue sky. (We were privileged to see that several times recently as well.) Again, the glittering appearance is caused by sunlight hitting the ice crystals. And all of this beauty was created by our amazing Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17), even snowflakes! Snow is something much needed for our earth to produce but God doesn’t stop with just providing the necessary, He loves to show His glory through it. “All that glitters is not gold;” it may be ice crystals falling from heaven!