Northland Nature: Northland trees holding snow, some better than othersNovember exited with a repeat of the statistics for the whole month. Though the second half was much colder than normal, we experienced a respite during this waning time and, for two days, we reached far above the freezing temperatures.
November exited with a repeat of the statistics for the whole month. Though the second half was much colder than normal, we experienced a respite during this waning time and, for two days, we reached far above the freezing temperatures.
The month also ended with considerable snowfall — and the month’s statistics reciprocated.
November’s final numbers reflected the warmth of the early days as we recorded a reading above normal (30.5 degrees compared to 28) and a snowfall far beyond the usual. It was both warmer and wetter than normal.
The 27.9-inch snowfall reported by the National Weather Service in Duluth ranked November 2010 as the sixth-snowiest November on record (going back to 1870) and the snowiest since the record-setting year of 1991. This snowiest in nearly 20 years is impressive, but even more so when we remember that the November of 2009 gave us about 1 inch!
And the snow has remained. Now, as we approach mid-December, we have had a snow covering for nearly a month.
I have also been amazed with the texture of the late-November snowstorm. Falling as it did on the night of Nov. 29, it came down in a temperature of 32 degrees. This made the snow very wet. Damp snow is sticky, so much of the falling white stuff hung onto tree branches.
We woke to a marvelous scene of trees being draped with a cold coat. Many bent to the ground. This is not unusual for early-season snows — especially those of November — but what made this unique was the following day.
As Nov. 30 unfolded, the temperature dropped. Afternoon readings were a full 10 degrees colder that the early morning, and the low reading for the day was in the late hours. When such a chill comes, the snowpack changes, becoming drier in the arid air. However, this snow still held onto the trees and we reveled in a pristine arboreal scene.
Usually warm melting temperatures or strong winds will bring down a snowy blanket, but we experienced neither.
During the following week, this wondrous winter show continued and, each day, we were part of such picturesque forests. I found that walking in the woods was made more difficult amid all the bent trees.
Still, I noted various conditions of the trees: The small deciduous ones in the forest, such as hazels, dogwoods and alders (as well as lilacs in the yard), are able to arc completely down to the ground. But, when relieved of the cold covering, they bounce back up virtually undeterred.
Large oaks, basswoods and maples seem to lift the load just fine, with maybe a few thick branches breaking off. But it seemed to be the mid-sized trees, especially birches, that are most affected.
At two sites in my yard are paper birches that have formed arches of their own. I do not expect these trees to resume their normal shape when the snow melts. This situation reminds me of the results of an ice storm.
The new storm results also illustrate the differences with conifers. Spruces, balsams and pines remain standing straight even though many boughs are angled down.
This “Christmas tree” shape now prevails in much of the region, making for superb winter woods scenes.
And critters take advantage of them too: The base of such snow-laden spruces provides a great shelter for grouse, hare and other wintering wildlife.
We often associate this month with such scenes and it looks like this year we’ll have all these views we want if present conditions prevail.
Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books that are available now, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods” and “Webwood.” Contact him c/o email@example.com.