On and off through the day it snowed. I enjoyed watching the quality of the snowflakes change over the course of the day. When it was warm and very calm, the flakes were large and fluffy, almost like the white cottony seeds that blow from a dandelion. When the weather warmed up a bit and the wind began to blow, the snow fell in heavier sleety drops that were almost rain and melted as soon as they hit our jackets and tent rainflies. I remember earlier in the expedition when it was colder and the flakes were much smaller and with a less intricate crystalline structure.
I have often heard it said that Inuit people have hundreds of Inuktitut words for snow. I have asked many Inuit people if this is true and some will laugh and say, “Perhaps not hundreds…but very very many.” One thing is certain – slight changes in the wind, humidity and temperature can produce very different kinds of snow.
Now that the climate is warming in the Arctic, there are more incidents of freezing rain and thaw-freeze events. These can coat the vegetation with a layer of ice that can make it difficult for caribou to reach food. These events can also disrupt the habitat of under-snow dwellers like voles and lemmings. Rains can also collapse polar bear dens.
For us, any snow is welcomed snow today. We have miles to travel before we reach the sea ice. The diminishing snow cover is exposing rocks, gravel and sand that make travel difficult and wear on the sled runners. We are hoping that the snow continues through the night and covers some of the rocks to make our travel easier tomorrow.