Winter Weather Wonders

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January is a great month for weather watching. The weather can change daily: winter snowfall one day may be followed by bright sunshine the next. And weather changes from place to place: a snowfall in the north might become a rain shower in the south.

But one thing is sure: only God controls the weather!  Sometimes the weather brings a magnificent show of God’s power, like an ice storm that coats branches, brings down power lines, and transforms sidewalks into slippery chutes. Other times it’s a gift of gentle rain. Always there are wonders waiting for us to discover—if we pay attention.

So keep your eye on the weather. Bundle up and head outside whenever you have a chance. Watch for God’s special winter weather wonders.

Sunrise, Sunset

Have you noticed lately how early the sun sets and how late it rises? These days we have longer nights than days. Will these long dark nights ever end? Of course they will. Remember the long days of last summer? They’ll return next summer. They’ll balance out the shorter days of winter.

Over all of 2015 we will have equal hours of daylight and of darkness. All the night hours and all the day hours will average out to 12 hours of daylight for every 12 hours of darkness. In winter the nights are longer; in summer the days are longer. Every spot on earth is that way. You can check out the sunrise and sunset times in your part of the world at timeanddate.com/worldclock/sunrise.html.

Twilight Series

In most places the sun sets and rises gradually. Northern and southern countries lose their daylight gradually in a series of twilights.

  1. The first is called Civil Twilight. That’s the time just after the sun has sunk below the horizon. Civil Twilight is darker than daylight, but you can still play outside without turning on a light.
  2. Next comes Nautical Twilight. If you’re outside, you can still see outlines of the horizon. You can probably see your snowman. But if you want to play outside, you’ll have to turn on a light to see well.
  3. The last twilight is called Astronomical Twilight. After this, you won’t be able to see the horizon at all. You’ll definitely need to turn on the lights.

Fishsicles and Turtle Cubes

Have you ever gone ice skating on a small pond or a lake? First you have to test the ice to make sure it’s thick enough. That’s because there’s water under the ice.

Water is the only liquid that expands as it freezes. As it expands, it becomes lighter and less dense. That’s why ice cubes float in a glass of water. All other liquids contract as they freeze. They become smaller and more dense. Their frozen cubes would not float.

Imagine what would happen in a pond if water acted like all other liquids. As the pond began to freeze, huge ice cubes would drop to the bottom. Or else the pond would freeze from the bottom up.

Then what would happen to the fish, snails, and turtles? They’d probably freeze as soon as the pond froze. By this time of year, you’d have fishsicles and turtle cubes. They wouldn’t float. Could they survive? Would we have any pond life?

But we don’t have to worry about any of those little critters. Thank God for creating water and those creatures who live in the water exactly the way they are.

Thunder Snow and Frost Quakes

Thunder snow is pretty cool. It’s a regular thunderstorm, but instead of raining, it snows. So you have a snowstorm with thunder and lightning. Thunder snow is produced by layers of cold air over layers of warm air, topped off with storm clouds. If you experience thunder snow you never forget it.

Another thing you won’t forget if you hear or feel it is a frost quake. Frost quakes happen at night. They might wake you up with a BOOM and some earthquake-like bumping and rolling.  Frost quakes are produced when bedrock freezes quickly, expands, hits other bedrock, and cracks.

Moon Dogs, Light Pillars, and More

The first full moon in 2015 will be on the night of January 4-5. You should be able to see a fairly large moon a night or two before and after that date. If you have clear weather on any of those nights, bundle up, go outside, and look at the moon. You may be able to see moondogs or light pillars.

Moon dogs look like two glowing spots, one on each side of the moon. They’re caused by ice crystals in Earth’s atmosphere. These crystals scatter the light of the moonbeam in certain directions.

Light pillars are columns of light that look like they’re beaming up to the moon from Earth. They’re caused by flat ice crystals above some bright light on earth. A spotlight that’s beamed upward on a cold night could produce a good light pillar.

Parhelic circles are so rare that they don’t have a common name. They’re white circles of light in the sky at the same level as the moon. They too are caused by ice crystals in the atmosphere.
 

The Wonder Maker

Psalm 147:16-18 paints a vivid word picture of our creator God—the One who brings us these weather wonders:

He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.

He hurls down his hail like pebbles.

Who can withstand his icy blast?

He sends his word and melts them; he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.

What do those verses tell you about God’s power and creative might? Draw a picture or write a prayer of thanksgiving for God, who spreads the snow like wool.

About the Author

Joanne De Jonge is a freelance writer and a former U.S. National Park Ranger. She attends West Valley Christian Fellowship in Phoenix, Ariz.
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