Snow – that icon of winter – blankets the land with a beautiful silence. Love it, hate it, we all depend on snow. Our year-round water supply largely comes from snowmelt. Waiting for spring flowers? They're fertilized by nutrients in snow. Species from microscopic fungi to 800-pound moose need snow. They survive the winter by living, each in its own way, in nature's igloo.
SCHUSS. The term for a straight, downhill ski run. In the land of the "Greatest Snow on Earth" – Utah – SCHUSS is also the moniker for storm-chasing, Old Man Winter-style.
A Conifer's View of Snow
If trees could talk, what winter tales they might tell: of the frozen soil in which they're rooted, the snows that fall on their branches, the icy rivers and streams that flow beneath, and the health of the entire forest.
The subnivium, it's called, this refuge beneath the snow that's insulated and maintains a constant temperature. It's nature's igloo for all winter creatures great and small.
Where Have Our Winters Gone?
If you're planning to skate on a frozen lake or river this winter, ski on a snowy slope, or, when spring arrives, depend on snowmelt to refill your water supply, you may need to think twice. December-to-March may be less like the winters we remember.
Video: Catch a Falling Snowflake
Stop-action: view the inner world of a snowflake as it's falling, via the lens of a new high-speed camera.
Video: Snow, Ice and Water:
A Zero Sum Game
Niwot Ridge, Colorado. It's 11,600 feet above sea level, and is home to a National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research site. There scientists study snow – and what happens to our water resources when it begins to melt.