Text: The White Stuff

In 2015–16, Elizabeth G Fagan wrote the monthly column “Green Talk” for the Ozaukee County News Graphic on behalf of Mequon Nature Preserve. Fagan’s experience as a professional writer spans more than 30 years. She frequently took the photos accompanying her “Green Talk” columns.

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December

Mid-Century a la Mode, 11x14, by Elizabeth G Fagan, lakemichigansleftcoast.com, Lake Michigan's Left Coast
Mid-Century a la Mode, 11×14, by Elizabeth G Fagan, lakemichigansleftcoast.com, Lake Michigan’s Left Coast

Basking in the near-warmth of an early December, Ozaukee County, WI, residents wonder, “Where’s the snow?” In the Great Lakes region we know all we need to do is wait. In winter, there’s always more than enough of the white stuff.

Whether it lightly powders our evergreens for Christmas or dumps heavily on our sidewalks in March, snow always starts the same way: as water vapor, ice crystals, and dust that collide in very cold clouds. Depending on air temperature, snowflakes take various shapes. The folk wisdom that no two snowflakes can be alike is almost true. It could happen, but the likelihood of two identical snowflakes forming within the lifetime of the universe is indistinguishable from zero.

Any heavy snowfall can be called a snowstorm. In a true blizzard, snow and wind combine to obscure visibility for several hours. Snow shower is a term for an intermittent snowfall, while flurry is used for very light, brief snowfalls. Thundersnow is a thunderstorm with snow instead of rain. While rare anywhere in the world, thundersnow is more common in our Great Lakes region, usually with lake-effect snow.

December 2015 Green Talk by Elizabeth Fagan
December 2015 Green Talk by Elizabeth Fagan

On the ground, snow texture ranges from the dry, light powder that skiers prefer to the heavy, wet slush that seems to fall on our driveways. Highly branched (dendritic) snow crystals create lower-density, “dry” snow. Columnar or plate-like crystals form dense, “wet” snow. With melting and refreezing cycles, even the most picturesque Christmas snowfall can turn front steps into icy hazard zones by New Year’s Eve.


Elizabeth G Fagan, Lake Michigans Left Coast, lakemichigansleftcoast.com
Elizabeth G Fagan, Lake Michigans Left Coast, lakemichigansleftcoast.com

Elizabeth G Fagan is an artist, photographer, and writer. A former Chicagoan, Fagan resides in southeastern Wisconsin. She calls her place in the world Lake Michigan’s Left Coast.

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Fagan attended The Hammonasset School, a private arts high school in Connecticut, where she began writing and taking photographs. She earned a BA in English at Grinnell College (Grinnell, Iowa) and the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). She has an MA in Linguistics with a specialization in teaching English as a second language (ESL) from UIC. Fagan later gained an associate degree in Web Development from Chicago’s DePaul University.

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