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Treebeard's Stumper
1 February 2002

The Big Chill

It was cold enough for heavy snow this week in central California, but there wasn't enough precipitation for more than a dusting in the mountains. On Monday morning, highway workers had to dump sand and salt on Cold Springs Bridge to melt the ice. Why was the bridge icy when the rest of the highway was clear? The harder stumper is so easy to ask. Heat rises, cold sinks, and the mountains are closer to the sun, so why does snow usually fall in the mountains instead of the valleys? You might also remember that Death Valley is both the lowest and hottest place in the US!

Cold Springs Bridge on San Marcos Pass is a beautiful single
span arch bridge that won engineering awards when it was
built in 1962. Why are icy bridges a special road hazard?
Snow in the backcountry, but the valley is clear. It's a familiar
sight, even here in central California. Heat rises and cold settles,
so why is there usually more snow in the high mountains?
 
Another curious stumper is that on some clear mornings, I can see a frost line in the foothills, with noticeable frost only below the line. I've never managed to capture a photo of this. The Alaska Science Forum also mentions this. See last week's Frosty Leaves stumper.

Answer


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Copyright © 2002 by Marc Kummel / mkummel@rain.org