Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A brief lesson in weather and climate

I witnessed something new today. At least, I'm not aware of seeing it before. I drove out to Mogenstrup for a run followed by a swim. The temperature in the car at one point read -13 C (8 F). I had never seen it that cold in Denmark. The sun was out, but you could hardly see a thing. There was an incredibly thick fog over everything. It wasn't until I started running that I realized what was going on. It was an ice fog. If one looked carefully at the trees and branches, every single water droplet, it seemed, had turned into ice. And this applied to the air as well. It was absolutely gorgeous and I am so angry I didn't have a camera along.

I returned to the pool hall and every strand of my hair, my hat, face, eye lashes, shirt was covered in a delicate, bright white frost.

Why did this happen? Well, I have never had any sort of formal weather education (when I got back and told SR about the "ice fog", he raised an eyebrow in doubt), but here is my understanding: being a coastal area, the climate here is very humid, even in the winter. When the clouds disappeared and the sun came out, there was a simultaneous large drop in temperature and large rise in pressure. The water droplets in the air simply froze. (For people who love chemistry, this is the opposite of sublimation and I can't remember what the opposite is called). For about an hour, there was absolutely no wind. It may be the one and only time I experience no wind in Denmark.

Something strange is going on this year in Denmark. It is the coldest December in recorded history. And, in fact, the entire year has been cold. If one looks at the temperature patterns over the last year, the warming effect of the Gulf Stream on this part of Europe has nearly disappeared. Maybe one could chalk it up to yearly variation, but it concerns me. If the Gulf Stream disappears, a huge change has happened on the planet. I just don't know enough to talk about it intelligently. And maybe it is altogether meaningless and simply random. It also sucks, because it is so much colder to run this year than the past two years.

To give you a little bit more detail, Copenhagen is at the latitude of Juneau, Alaska, but generally has the temperature of Seattle. This is because of the warm Gulf Stream air. That is also why Spain is warmer than Illinois. But this year, we have a lot more in common with Alaska. And when the temperature here is low, it is REALLY cold because it is so humid.

Perhaps I'm saying all of this as an excuse since I don't know if I will even make it through the social marathon we're signed up for on Friday. One highlight, though, is we'll get to run twice through Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen.

Running song of the day: Flyvere i natten by Kim Larsen


May-Britt Hansen said...

I have to correct you on saying it has been cold all year. June and July was warmer than usual. In fact July was the 4th warmest month recorded since 1874, 3 degrees above normal (

sea legs girl said...

Well, I took the fact from Politiken a week ago. I agree that the summer seemed/was warm, but the entire area that the gulf stream affects had a relatively colder year (the entire year's temperatures taken into account), while the rest of the planet was generally warmer. They had a very pretty map illustrating it. Perhaps I can find it.

cherelli said...

Well, it is a La Nina winter so was meant to be colder than usual (not that we're suffering much here in vancouver but just looking at the east coast and Europe...and then the big floods in Australia...things seem a bit whacky)....I can understand how annoyed you were not to have a camera for your freezing fog experience, that must have been beautiful. Enjoy your social marathon...!

Stefanie Schocke said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog about the weight gain...yah, I'm not longer worried. I was worried for about a day...then realized he's just overreacting! :)

And I don't know how you possibly thought you gained too much!

Danni said...

We get freezing fog fairly often and it makes driving treacherous.

SteveQ said...

You never had freezing fog in your Wisconsin days? Living next to a lake, I experience pockets of it every fall. The willows get a coating of hoar (how much you care to bet that Glaven will have a comment about "hoar?") and there's rime on the weeds and only people who write and live in the north think there's a difference between rime and hoarfrost.

It's impossible to photograph. That's part of its charm.

Karen said...

When we lived in Alaska, we got ice fog when the temperature dipped below -38F, reducing visibility to less than 100 ft at times. Fairbanks is really dry, so it was only at those temperatures that it reached 100% humidity.

I never knew that it could occur above zero. Ice fog is pretty darn cool though, just drive safe :)

Karen said...

After consulting with my personal meteorologist, he told me that what you were experiencing was probably freezing fog, and not ice fog.

Freezing fog occurs at warmer temperatures than -20F (up to freezing) and coats every surface with a light layer of ice/frost. The frost forms from the excess water in the air, such as a nearby ocean or freezing drizzle.

Ice fog on the other hand is more caused by man-made sources, such as car exhaust and heater smoke from chimneys. It doesn't usually occur above -20F. It doesn't coat the surfaces of objects, the moisture in the air actually becomes frozen ice crystals. The objects don't become coated with ice, but actually form a sort of frozen ice dust on them (which blows off easily if it forms on your car).

It may not make a difference to a non-meteorologist (kinda like the difference between hail and graupel, or freezing rain and sleet), but it was a nice topic for our run this evening, so I thought I'd share. :)

sea legs girl said...


That is actually really intersting. I was struggling with what I should call it, since I'd never heard of it before. Now I'm probably going to sound dumb, but if it is frozen water in the air why is it not called ice? Could you ask your personal meteorologist? Or maybe you said it - it's like the difference between freezing rain and snow?

You mentioning -38 F makes me feel like I should stop complaining. :)

sea legs girl said...

Huh - and I like how Danni said it right "freezing fog". Good girl, Danni!

Steve, since Glaven isn't saying anything, I will just add that "hoar frost" has got to be one of my favorite terms. It just fits so perfectly with what it is describing.

sea legs girl said...

Oops, Steve said it right, too. Got to give credit where credit is due!

SteveQ said...

I've been thinking baby names again. You once commented on my blog that not enough people are naming their kids "Soupy." (Really. I can point out where you said it.) So, Soupy if it's a boy... and Tubbo if it's a girl (because you have to work against eating disorders very early).

SteveQ said...

btw, is this blog:
in Swedish? Apparently, I still can't work out my Scandinavian languages.

sea legs girl said...

Soupy? Must have been another sea legs girl. :)

BTW, it wasn't Jude I had a problem with, it was Jude Nutter. It just made me laugh. Especially as a woman's name!

That blog IS is Swedish - so you're not doing too badly. The most recent blog post title: Sex måneder av fullkomlig lycka means Six months of complete happiness. It's so much like Danish that I could translate the whole blog for you - for a price :).

Olga said...

I honestly haven't read the whole post every word, nor the comments, but since you're talking weather and -13C - this is what in Moscow is last few days, and Larry and I are walking streets for 4 hiurs straight. Not that our feet and faces are happy about it. And yes, when I ran last, I had icy cover on my chin upon return.

Karen said...

For freezing fog, the water in the air is supercooled, but not frozen. The fog freezes to all surfaces, creating ice, but doesn't freeze in the air.

For ice fog, the particles in the air are actually frozen into ice crystals...along with everything else.

You're lucky it isn't ice fog, because it creates such a poor air quality (since the ice fog is partly caused by pollution and the smoke, etc just hangs in the air) that even prolonged exercise outside is dangerous. It's especially harmful to kids and pregnant women.

It looks pretty darn cool though, I will give you that :) .... and -38F I don't miss it. I'm actually going to do a blog tomorrow on comparing my New Years runs from this year and last. HUGE difference, let me tell you.