We have quite a bit of snow in England (it’s the warm Gulf Stream that stops us having guaranteed winter snow, like Scandinavia). And although it snows more in January and February in England, we do have more than 50% chance of it snowing on Christmas Day.
- Snow is not white. It’s translucent, and takes an hour to fall from the clouds where it absorbs reflections (it can be black if polluted or even pink from algae). Freshly fallen snow absorbs sound waves, which is why it’s quiet.
- Some people go a bit crazy from snow (thought to be a vitamin D deficiency). They get ‘Arctic hysteria’ where they talk meaningless rubbish, then have no recollection of what they said previously (mmm, sounds like a few of our MPs!)
- Intuits (people from Greenland) have 50 words for snow. and Scots have even more, including skelf (large snowflake) and unbreak (beginning of a thaw). North Wales holds the record for the most snow in the UK – in the 40s, the drift was as deep as a very tall man! The snowiest places in England are Co Durham and the North Pennines.
- Tristan Gooley is England’s expert on navigation, and has lots of info at his website, if you’re an intrepid traveller. He can teach you how to navigate using snow strips.
Keeping safe in snow & ice
This is important, especially for older people. England has quite harsh weather in autumn and winter, and we do have a lot of sleet and snow. And our pavements are not always the best-maintained. So what can you do to keep safe in the snow and ice, without resorting to harsh pavement chemicals and rock salt, which is toxic to pets and wildlife?
- Don’t use rock salt outside, as when pets go indoors, the salt heats up to give paw burns. Use a shovel to clear snow, and hose paws before pets go indoors, to remove any rock salt. EcoGrit (cereal waste) is an alternative, they also suggest straw or sand. Paved areas are generally safer for pets, as stones and gravel can get stuck in paws (keeping nails trimmed helps). And if these items are covered in snow or ice, they could be accidentally swallowed. See more tips to make your garden safe for pets.
- In Scandinavia, people use heated driveways to avoid them icing up in the first place. They are expensive to install, but for large and public buildings, they prevent the need to use salt or any product, which also falls down storm drains and into our rivers and seas. They are also more or less maintenance free.
- Wear layers, rather than one large jumper. This way you can add and remove layers, if you get too cold or hot. Old dogs may benefit from a well-fitted dog coat, although some dislike wearing them. You’ll know.
- Ensure your car is safe, before embarking on a journey. Obvious checks include tyres and breaks. Autoglass suggests that parking your car to face east the night before, helps to prevent frosty windows the next day (because the early sun rises in the east). Another tip of theirs is to rub half an onion on the windscreen, the oils prevent it getting icy, so you don’t have to scrape or use toxic sprays the next day. Or simply use the wipers to cover the screen with an old car or bath mat, if you don’t have a garage.
preventing falls in snow & ice
Thousands of people are admitted to hospital each year, after falling on snow or ice. If you know someone who is vulnerable or elderly, offer to shop for them for daily essentials. If you are clearing snow and ice from someone’s door, move it when the snow is fresh. If you add water, it could turn into black ice, which is more dangerous.
If you are out in the snow and ice, learn how to walk like a penguin. This can help to prevent falls (the third leading cause of accidental death).
- Put your arms out to each side. Don’t put hands in pockets.
- Now point your feet out like a penguin (or ballet dancer), bend your knees and walk in small shuffle steps, to balance your gravity.
- If you start to fall back, tuck in your chin (so your head doesn’t hit the ground). Just like when a drunk person falls, if your muscles are relaxed, you will be less likely injured. Wearing a thick coat also helps to cushion the fall. If someone you know has balance problems (like Parkinson’s), it may be worth investing in some hip protectors for when they are out in cold weather, as they could prevent broken bones, if they do fall.
- Yaktrax® Ice Grips attach to the bottom of your feet, a lightweight alternative to snow chains. They grip the floor, but they are only to use on packed snow and ice. Don’t use for black or slushy ice, driving or cycling, or indoors (you’ll damage the floor). They have coils that compress into the snow, so are not good for sanded areas or on slippery mud, gravel or concrete. The sizing is a bit different, so check before purchase.
- It’s too cold to snow. Myth. Cold air holds less moisture, but it can hold some. If you’ve visited Scandinavia, you know that it is not too cold to snow!
creatures that love the snow
There are many animals that love the snow. A lot of wildlife positively thrive in it. Because it traps air, snow actually is a good insulator, so many animal (like polar bears) like to use packed snow as dens, to protect their young.
- Snow Leopard is a book about one of the world’s most beautiful creatures who lives in the Himalayas, in its harsh environment and how it looks after its young. Their paws act like snowshoes.
- Arctic foxes can’t wait for snowflakes to fall.
- Penguins have quite a hard life. They don’t have fur on their feet, to help regulate temperature. But after breeding, they spend most time huddled together to keep warm.
- Macaque monkeys (those red-faced monkeys in hot Japanese springs) love to make snowballs and steal them from each other, in play.
- It’s now believed that the Yeti in the Himalayas is simply different people seeing 3 various bears.
- Polar bears keep cubs safe in underground dens, and go without food for several months sometimes. Global warming is causing ice to melt.
beautiful books about snow
- The Little Book of Snow is a celebration of nature’s favourite spectacle. Snow is the weather of play and snowball fights. Is it true that two snowflakes are never alike? How many Christmases have actually been white? And can it ever be too cold to snow? The perfect book for anyone who loves that feeling when you open the curtains in the morning, and the world has turned to white.
- Samson in the Snow is a lovely story by an award-winning couple of writers and artists. Samson is a friendly lonely mammoth, who encounters a little red bird who is looking for yellow flowers for her mouse friend. As she flies off, Samson wonders what it must be like, to have a friend. He wonders this for so long that he falls asleep, then wakes up to a world covered in snow. In the midst of a blizzard, Samson finds and shelters the little red bird and flower-loving mouse, in a tender tale of unexpected friendship.
- Snow Birds is an educational book for children, with elegant verse and striking illustrations. This book salutes the brave and resourceful birds who adapt to survive the coldest months. You’ve heard of birds who migrate to warmer climates in the wintertime, but what about those who persevere through snowy weather and freezing temperatures?