A Note on The Weather, 2

It’s April 26th. That means it’s almost May. Green grass, chirping birds, blossoming flowers, T-shirts – these are the things I should see when I look out my window.

But today, this is what I saw:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaCiWKQ5X9M&feature=youtu.be

Enough said.

A Note on the Weather

The winter has undeniably passed. We can safely say that the days of -40 are over and pack our down coats and extra thermals away. Yet, just an hour ago, I stared out my window as giant snowflakes covered the streets of Ulaanbaatar.

I’m told that spring is Mongolia’s most tumultuous season. It’s when herders have to be most careful about their livestock, left vulnerable from the harsh winter. Many worry about getting sick from the rapid and extreme fluctuation in temperature and dew point. I can understand their concern too. For the first time since I arrived I’m actually feeling a bit under the weather.

This week's weather forecast

The weather of the past 24 hours perfectly illustrate a typical spring day in Ulaanbaatar. Around 11:00 AM yesterday I walked down to meet some people at a nearby art gallery. The sky was clear, there was no wind, and by the time I arrived at my destination I was actually sweating underneath my lightweight jacket. “Spring has sprung!” I thought. By 4:00, I had to venture out again. This time, winds had picked up and were aggressively pelting small dust particles in everyone’s faces. Most people who were outside were wearing sunglasses or scarves over their eyes. It was a dust storm if ever there was one. This morning I woke to a pleasant snowfall – big white flakes that I almost never saw during actual winter. Now, an hour after it stopped snowing, snow still covers some rooftops, but it’s mostly melted.

And it looks like we shall repeat this cycle until it is decisively summer.

Dust filled the air of Ulaanbaatar on Sunday, just hours after a friend of mine suggested it was a perfect day for a picnic!
(Picture by Claire Law)

(Photo by Claire Law)

I awoke to a late-April snowfall

The snow is almost completely gone on the sidewalk outside my apartment

Snow

The Snow

There is something extremely special about the snow in Mongolia. As someone who spent the majority of her life in Iowa and Minnesota, I come from a snowy background. I am familiar with hard snow, snowball-making snow, powder, flurries, wet snow, and ice covered snow. As a child, I spent many winter afternoons digging snow forts until my nose was red with minor frost bite. But I have never seen snow like I have here.

It is the most glittery, sparkly snow I could imagine. It’s like tiny crystals dancing in the sky – and that is on a clear day. I suspect that it has something to do with the extremely dry atmosphere and would love confirmation from any of you helpful meteorologists or atmospheric scientists out there. I wish I could capture it on film, but the crystals are so microscopic it’s been almost impossible. I suppose being surrounded by fine glitter is more of an experience than an image anyway.

The other remarkable snow I’ve seen is on the ground. Rather than a powder of individual snowflakes, branches, grass, rocks, and dirt are covered in thick ice crystals. After some cursory research, I found that this is known as rime and occurs when water droplets freeze quickly. I suppose it’s a result of (trade off for?) the constant subzero weather.

Below is a collection of snowy photos for your viewing pleasure. Click here for more photos.

Snow on Frozen River

Snow on Frozen River

Glittery Snow

Glittery Snow

Snow Crystals

Snow Crystals

Ice Crystals on Rocks

Ice Crystals on Rocks

Frosty Grass

Frosty Grass

Sharon With Icy Snow

Sharon With Icy Snow

Icy Hill

Icy Hill

Proceed Slowly

Proceed Slowly

Beyonce the Puppy

Beyonce the Puppy

Frosty Trees

Frosty Trees in Ulaanbaatar