The word around town has been, of course, the snow. For the first time in Juniata history, student and (most) faculty were treated to, not one, but two snow days! What sort of implications arise from this much snow? Dennis Johnson, professor of environmental science, explains:
This much snow looks like a lot of water. How big a rainstorm could this be compared to?
Hydrologists use the term snow/water equivalent to describe the relationship between the amount of water in the snow and the depth of the snow. This is obviously affected by many variables, but a snow pack like this would probably range from 15-20 percent, meaning that for every fifteen or so inches of snow there would be one inch of water.
Now that we’ve had all these dry, sunny days, that pack has compressed and some of that water sublimated, it’s probably gone to about 10 percent.
What are some environmental impacts of heavy snow, like flooding or affecting wildlife?
Snow doesn’t usually cause flooding. It can, however, contribute to flooding if there’s a sudden thaw accompanied by a hard rain. Actually, in January of 1996 we had those conditions exactly and it did cause the river to flood.
As for the wildlife, I don’t believe they suffer too much from heavy snowfall. Long periods of deep snow could perhaps be detrimental to deer and turkey, but I don’t recall hearing about their populations suffering from snowfall recently.
I noticed that there seem to be far more icicles than usual hanging off buildings.
Well, obviously more snow deposits more water on the rooftops, coupled with sunny days to produce melt and subsequent refreezing. But I think the real reason is that many old buildings downtown are poorly insulated. The heat from the inside is melting the snow from the bottom, running off the roof and freezing in the cold air.
How often does this kind of snowstorm happen around here?
It’s pretty rare; some places along the East Coast got all-time record snowfall. We didn’t hit that, but I’d say within the top ten single events around here. Facilities really did a fantastic job clearing paths.
-Joe Aultman-Moore ’12, Juniata Online Journalist