The truth about snowflakes is not as they would have you believe. Yes, there is the ideal, perfect little snowflake fluttering down slowly from the sky; the baby in the arms; the child that must be protected from any harm; the emotionally fragile liberal that cries bully when someone is just being an asshole, or can’t understand how someone could vote for Donald Trump.
Well, I’m calling bullshit, because I know a thing or two about snowflakes.
Snowflakes, which are endlessly diverse, though remarkably similar, are formed through adversity. High in the atmosphere, water coalesces and freezes upon a mote of dust, a grain of pollen, volcanic ash, silt blown from the Sahara and carried across the sea.
A microclimate forms around the snowflake. Minute variations in temperature, wind speed, humidity, and countless other details affect the forming of the snow crystal as it’s buffeted and blown about in this harsh environment.
The truth about snowflakes is that they change, they meld and coalesce, they reinvent themselves to suit the time, the temperature, and the pressure that they’re under.
Shortly after snow hits the ground, almost immediately, it begins to go through the first of many metamorphoses. The crystalline branches, if that’s the type of snow that was falling, begin to fold, pressed inward as more of their kin pile upon one another. And as more snow falls, as the snowflakes’ original forms shift, the spaces between them diminish. The snowflakes are pressed closer. The fluffy, airy spaces between them contract, points of contact solidify and harden. This process continues throughout the winter through freeze and thaw and as more snow falls. Over time, the snowflakes come together to form a continuous, insulating blanket.
Below the snowpack there is a space that forms called the subnivean zone. This is an area of warmer air between the breathing ground, which radiates heat, and the harsh environment above. The subnivean zone is an area where the smaller critters, more vulnerable to cold and predation, can seek refuge. There are trails that form, entire highways below the snow that are well worn and traveled. There is food, and warmth, and safe passage for those that need it.
When there are fewer snowflakes and no unified snowpack, it is the vulnerable that suffer.
And snowflakes are not passive. They can move with tremendous speed and incredible force. Once loosened, an avalanche can reach speeds of 80mph within 5 seconds.
And as this fuming cascade of snowflakes, unified in their singular purpose, goes rushing downhill, they become a single irrefutable event burying and smothering all opposition until it asphyxiates.
So, make no mistake — this is the truth about snowflakes.