It has been a rare event having two sunny days back to back this winter, however we will take them when we get them. With the snow cover things sure have been bright outside – the amount of sunlight it reflects back into the atmosphere is very high, reflecting 80 to 90 percent of the incoming sunlight. By contrast, trees, plants, and soil reflect only 10 to 30 percent of sunlight. Snow cover wields the largest influence during springtime (April to May) in the Northern Hemisphere, when days become longer and the amount of sunshine increases over snow-covered areas. Snow’s high reflectivity helps Earth’s energy balance, because it reflects solar energy back into space, which helps cool the planet.
The thermal properties of snow have important consequences for climate, as well. Snow acts like an insulating blanket. Beneath just one foot of snow, the soil and the organisms within it are protected from changes in the air temperature above the snow surface. Snow’s cold, moist surface influences how much heat and moisture circulate between the ground and the atmosphere. Snow helps insulate the ground below, holding in heat and preventing moisture from evaporating into the atmosphere. Even on top of other frozen material, such as permafrost and river ice or sea ice, snow cover prevents ice from forming as quickly.
When soil does freeze, it locks in gases like carbon and methane, inhibiting chemical exchanges between the ground and air. Frozen soil also inhibits the movement of water within the soil and on the soil surface. Because the soil is frozen, its surface is sealed over and so it absorbs less new liquid water, leading to more surface runoff. In addition, once soil has frozen, snow’s insulating qualities can delay melting. Knowing whether soil is frozen, and knowing how soon that soil may thaw, is important in estimating how much water might be available during the spring and summer melt.
Luckily we have had a lot of rain and above normal temps to raise the amount of moisture in the soil this season which will be helpful for the farmers to get the crops going in the spring. Along with the addition of snow this month the moisture factors have a slower release into the atmosphere and are locked into the ground.
At 8am we had 8° in Otsego which has risen to 11° at 8:30 under a thin layer of clouds. We will begin another active weather pattern tomorrow with a mix of precipitation, there are no advisories in place at this time. The next system will come in the Saturday time frame and will be stronger than the one tomorrow which may be a snow to rain to snow event then yet another system moves in for late Monday into Tuesday.