Monday, December 6, 2010

The Effects of Snow

As predicted, snow arrived to change the color and texture of the landscape. Temperatures stayed at or just above freezing, so the snow was wet and stuck to whatever it touched. It made for quite an attractive scene, but snow, like any other type of weather, can have a wide range of effects on the plants and animals of an area.

The greatest threat to Eastern Red Cedars during the winter is the loss of branches due to the weight of a heavy snow load. Wet snows sticking to the branches cause them to spread. As the branch becomes more horizontal, its ability to capture snow increases. If undamaged, the branch will return to its original position after the snow is removed. During the winter, this is often a slow process, so branches even slightly bent now could be more vulnerable in the next snow.

Snow on branches makes it hard to do any clearing work. Besides being an uncomfortable experience when snow falls down your back as you try to cut the trees; the snow causes everything to be slippery, including the equipment you are trying to use. The snow adds too many dangerous possibilities to the job, so clearing work is put on hold until the snow is gone.

You can’t mow with snow on the ground. The snow makes the mower and feet prone to slipping. Features that you might wish to avoid with the mower, such as this ant mound, are often hidden by the snow. The spinning blade acts like a fan and cools the mower deck. This often causes moisture to freeze under the deck and disable the mower.

Wet snow catches on the leaves of the tall grasses and causes them to bend down along the stem. This greatly reduces the effectiveness of the grass as cover for small mammals and birds. The result could be a greater mortality from harsh weather conditions later in the season.

The condition at ground level plays an important role in the survival of many insects. Most insects in this area are adapted to cold temperatures and easily survive the winter. The harshest winter conditions for the insects are periods of cool wet weather. An early snow fall on warm ground can keep the ground insulated and protected from freezing long into the winter. Damp conditions allow various diseases and fungi to attack overwintering insects, and mortality can sometimes be high. Fortunately, we didn’t have a great amount of snow and predicted sunny days promise to make the snow rapidly disappear.


  1. Hi Steve...looks like you got dumped on!!
    I had that down the back of the neck avalanche happen to me quite a few times ...mostly out of my own stupidity!! : } Hate when that happens!!
    I really like the picture of the golden grass with the snow!!
    It has been snowing and blowing here all day but has only accumulated less than and inch....just what I like, a no shovel storm!!

  2. Hi, grammie g. Glad you didn't get snowed in. We ended up with about two inches, but everything melted off the driveway and roads. I also appreciate the no shovel storms.

  3. Lovely pics, you got much more snow than we did.

    From your description, it sounds as if you've actually tried to mow in snow! But no -- that would be crazy.

    "Snow on branches makes it hard to do any clearing work."
    Well then, snow on branches forces you to stop working and appreciate the beautiful scenery!

  4. Hi, Jain. You mean you've never mowed in the snow? It works pretty well on really cold days when the ground is frozen the snow is light and fluffy and not too deep. It's wet snow with temperatures near the freezing point that can be a real mess.

    I've never tried this stop work concept that you are suggesting. I just thought I was supposed to start working harder. I have trouble just looking at the scenery, because whatever direction I look, I see some work that needs to be done.