Like Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, I’m a big fan of snow and ice at surprisingly low latitudes, such as the fact that there’s a ski hill in Lesotho in Southern Africa. Similarly, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time reading up on things like glaciers in New Guinea.
So I’m pretty fired up that it actually snowed Thursday in parts of Los Angeles (although I managed to sleep through the snowflakes.)
As I mentioned recently in my Taki’s column on the Sapir-Whorf theory, the much argued over claim that Eskimos have a lot of words for “snow” goes back to a 1911 report by anthropologist Franz Boas from Baffin Island. Personally, I’ve always found it plausible, but American skiers, snowboarders, and mountain climbers also have a lot of words for snow. It’s useful to have more words the more you need to deal with the specifics of a phenomenon.
On the other hand, Los Angeles residents often are polar opposites from the Inuit. Yesterday, from the Los Angeles Times:
Xavier Bias walked out of the Whole Foods Market in Pasadena and saw another woman looking to the ground puzzled at the white stuff covering the sidewalk.
The woman wasn’t sure exactly what she was looking at. But Bias, who is originally from the East Coast, quickly set her straight.
It was snow.
“People didn’t know what it was,” Bias said. “I was like, no, this is snow.”
It was that kind of day in some parts of Southern California, where snow dropped at extremely low elevation levels, creating a winter wonderland for a short while. Snow fell in Malibu, Pasadena, West Hollywood, Northridge, San Bernardino, Thousand Oaks and other unexpected places.
Snow level hit the 1,000-foot mark, bringing tiny bits of the white stuff into neighborhoods that had not seen snow in decades. But the show was fleeting, lasting in most cases a few minutes before the sun melted anything that had hit the ground. …
“We’re seeing a little bit of everything out there,” said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
After seeing the confusion on social media and as residents began calling in to the weather service, Boldt took it upon himself to clear things up.
“Correct, that is snow! Lots of confusion today,” he posted on the National Weather Service’s Twitter account.
He explained that if the precipitation bounces off the ground, then it contains ice, which would make it hail or sleet. If it floats, it’s snow. In many areas, residents reported seeing small slushy balls, which Boldt said is graupel, snowflakes slightly melted and bunched together.
“Graupel” — that’s a new word for snow to me.’
Anyway, here’s a question about cold. Currently, it’s 36 F degrees in Valley Village, CA. Yet I expect there to be frost on the roof of my house at 7 AM, even though the temperature won’t quite reach the freezing point of 32 F. When I was a kid in the San Fernando Valley, it seemed to get down to 28 F pretty regularly, but lately freezing temperatures are rare. As far as I can tell, the last time it got as low as 31 degrees F was December 28, 2015.
And yet in both December 2015 and December 2016, my Brazilian Bougainvillea bush was blasted by frost (recovering nicely by spring, fortunately).
My impression is that locally extremely low temperatures roll down off the roof onto the bushes. But how does that work? How does it get colder in some spots in my yard than the overall temperature?
My impression is that Southern California’s famous old orange groves, now largely turned into subdivisions, were sited on sloping foothill land in the San Gabriel Valley because the cold kept rolling downhill past the groves into the bottom of the valleys.