Melt Patterns

Groundhog Day is the date half way between the first day of winter, the winter solstice, and the first day of spring, the spring equinox. During the month of February, the strength of the sunlight striking the northern half of the earth gains power with every passing day. Can we see clues that this is happening? Look for some of the things listed below and keep a journal during February and March about what you observe.

Snow on the ground can be a great indicator of the power of sunlight. Look for signs that snow is melting faster in sunny spots. Check around the base of trees that are in sunny spots. Do you find bare spots of ground? If you do, which side of the tree are they on? Do roofs that face south have less snow on them than roofs that face north? Which sides of houses have larger icicles? How could sunlight cause icicles to form?

Sometimes the snow along the side of a road can get dirty from cars passing by. Is there a safe place to look at a roadside to see if the dirty spots are melting faster than clean, white snow? Why would there be a difference between how fast dirty snow and clean snow melts on a sunny day? Can you find a spot where a dark colored piece of something has melted into the snow? Why did this happen?

Is the snow deeper where the ground is in the shade? Why or why not? 

Look at frozen puddles and ponds to see how the sun is affecting them. Keep safe! DO NOT GO ONTO THE ICE OF A POND WITHOUT CHECKING WITH AN ADULT!

Scientists think that snow can insulate the ground like a blanket. This can keep the cold air from causing the ground to freeze as deep as it would without a layer of snow. Most woodchucks (also called groundhogs) make their winter burrows in the shade of the woods not out in a sunny field. How could this help the woodchuck during the winter?

Sometimes melting snow around trees can bring out huge numbers soil insects called springtails. They come out to get away from the water of the melting snow, or maybe just to move around in the sunlight and feed. These insects are called snow fleas when they are seen in winter. Look for them if you get to walk in the woods on a sunny winter day.

Visit our First Signs of Spring page for other clues that the seasons are starting to change.
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