Holy Rollers

My friends back in the mid-west are going for drives along frozen ponds and out country roads looking for snow rollers. There are thousands everywhere this week. I spent 38 entire winters back there and maybe visited another fifteen winters. I never saw one or ever heard of one. Here’s the reason. They are rare.
snow roller2
According to Wikipedia, a snow roller is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which large snowballs are formed naturally as chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind, picking up material along the way, in much the same way that the large snowballs used in snowmen are made.
snow roller4
Unlike snowballs made by people, snow rollers are typically cylindrical in shape, and are often hollow since the inner layers, which are the first layers to form, are weak and thin compared to the outer layers and can easily be blown away, leaving what looks like a doughnut or Swiss roll. Snow rollers have been seen to grow as large as two feet in diameter.
snow roller3
The following conditions are needed for snow rollers to form:

  • The ground must be covered by a layer of ice to which snow will not stick.
  • The layer of ice must be covered by wet, loose snow with a temperature near the melting point of ice.
  • The wind must be strong enough to move the snow rollers, but not strong enough to blow them apart.
    • Alternatively, gravity can move the snow rollers as when a snowball, such as those that will fall from a tree or cliff, lands on steep hill and begins to roll down the hill.
      Because of this last condition, snow rollers are more common in hilly areas.
      snow roller1However, the precise nature of the conditions required makes them a very rare phenomenon.
      And then there’s some like these that are very rare indeed.
      snow roller5
      I’m happy to just see the pictures from back home.  After all, it was 72 degrees today.

About bakoheat

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3 Responses to Holy Rollers

  1. joanraymondwriting says:

    A friend of mine just posted pictures of these a few days ago. I think they’re really amazing. They remind me of the hay rolls we saw in the midwest (compared to our hay bales). Great post!

  2. Bee Barmann says:

    Wow! That is a new one to me. I never saw such when we lived in Toronto or Columbus,Ohio. Lots of snow both places too.

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