Monday, November 19, 2012

Rime Time

Rime Time, 2012
(Click on images to see larger)

How in the world could a guy who grew up by the ocean be expected to know what rime is? I don’t even think the word was mentioned in any science class I took. To be honest, though, science and I weren’t on the best terms. Still, I think I’d remember a word like that.
While we’re at it, virga’s another term they didn’t mention when I was in school, but which apparently became part of the curriculum when my daughter was in middle school. It refers to rain that starts to fall from clouds, but evaporates before it hits the ground. (I swear, sometimes I think they make this stuff up. If it evaporates before it hits you on the head how in the world are you going to know it’s even happening?)
The jury might still be out on virga. But I’m here to tell you that rime is for real.
Yesterday morning my wife and I were driving down the Genesee Expressway in upstate New York. It’s a beautiful highway that hugs the sides of mountains for much of its length. One moment you might be looking over the edge of a deep ravine. The next your eyes will be looking across a wide valley and up to a five mile-long line of giant wind turbines atop an opposite ridge, their blades looking like pinwheels dancing across the tops of mountains.
We’d just come down a few hundred feet in elevation near the town of Avoca, where I noticed off in the distance what looked like the proverbial “winter wonderland.” The trees and the ground were covered with what looked like snow. Only it wasn’t snow. It shined like ice. But it wasn’t ice in the usual ice storm way.
My quick thinking wife, who apparently paid more attention in school, immediately speculated that what we were witnessing was rime, which if you were asleep in Earth Science as I must have been, is “an accumulation of granular ice tufts on the windward sides of exposed objects that is formed from supercooled fog or cloud.” (It's also known as hoarfrost.)
Yep, that’s what it was, for sure. Click on the picture below and you’ll see how this wasn’t just rain that had frozen. It didn’t coat the branches of the tree so much as stand on them like whiskers. The strands looked almost like something you’d see in a photograph taken by one of those fancy microscopes that make items from everyday life look like something you'd immediately want to wash or at least douse with Purell. 
Rime, 2012

This sighting being near the beginning of an eleven-hour drive, I didn’t prevail upon my wife to let me stop and photograph the scene at Avoca. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was thrilling. When we drove through the town of Bath a few minutes later, the entire town was covered in rime and indeed shrouded in a “supercooled fog or cloud.”
We did pause at a rest stop a little further down the road, during which time I had a moment to grab the camera and take these pictures for you.
You just never know what you’ll learn here.


  1. I would add derecho to your list.

  2. That's beautiful--it must have been magical coming upon that. I don't remember learning about rime, but I'll remember it now!

  3. You didn't grow up in the north, did you. I love Rime. Always have, always will.