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Winter poetry in rime

December 15, 2011

Thick rime hangs from a pair of oak acorns in the foothills west of The Dalles, Oregon. Mark B. Gibson photo

Rime, n. White frost; hoarfrost, congealed dew or vapor. Webster’s Dictionary, 1950

For over a week now, broad reaches of the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington have been wrapped in fog, with temperatures well below freezing. The effect is caused by an inversion of the normal air temperatures: Cold air is trapped at the surface by warmer air above. Below the cap, icy cold air sits almost unmoving.

In the Cascade foothills above The Dalles, Oregon, fog has moved in most nights for the past week. It’s cold, dense and etherial. It freezes on whatever it touches, forming long crystal streamers of ice, jutting out at odd angles that reflect the almost imperceptible air currents. Horse hair, caught in a fence, looks first like thread, then string, as the crystals grow night by night on every strand. Along open fields and on hillsides, trees exposed to the fog become whiter every day, accentuating their individual shapes.

Unfortunately for photographers and poets (but not so unfortunately for those with cold toes), the cold air inversion is forecast to end today as a new weather system moves through the region. Softened by snow or melted by rain, the hoarfrost will be gone.

Thick rime hangs from an oak leaf and branches in the foothills west of The Dalles, Oregon. Mark B. Gibson photo

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2011 18:58

    I never knew it was called “rime”! We had the same inversion, and I took tons of pictures of frost covered things, but none so impressive as these! I love that lone oak leaf … I hear you had a little snow lately too???

    • December 16, 2011 20:06

      It warmed and snowed about an inch. The snow melted wherever the sun managed to touch it yesterday, but the shaded areas are still white. Once I found the leaf and acorns, I used a telephoto lens to isolate them from the surroundings and the background. Light was low, and I used a tripod.

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