Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Frozen Finally!

Global warming is on everyone's mind. Its on every talk show on TV or radio. And quite often, you will hear President Bush being blamed for the effects of global warming too! Due to the El Niño effect, it has been predicted that 2007 would be the warmest year so far. Nevertheless, not many in Madison are complaining about the late beginning of winter this year. When I spoke to our hospital shuttle driver about 2 weeks back, he said he couldn't care less about when the Madison lakes would freeze this year. He seemed thrilled to envision a scenario in which they might not freeze at all.
But some of the more adventurous and enthusia
stic Madisonites would beg to differ, and among them are the cross-country skiers, ice-fishers, the snowmobile-riders, ice-sculptors and the kite-fliers. A lot of the culture of Madison depends on how thick the sheet of ice is. Madison was the host of the now defunct 'Kites on Ice' fest held annually on the frozen Lake Mendota (see picture below). Teams from all over the mid-West and other parts of the US and Canada convened to compete in a kite-flying test, replete with music and fanfare, with the participants and the audience cheering as they stood on the frozen Mendota. I was fortunate to have witnessesd this truly fine event in 2005, that was thence discontinued because the “weather situation in Wisconsin became too iffy”.
Just as everyone was speculating whether the lakes would freeze, on the night of January 20, Mendota lake froze, it seems, in dramatic f
ashion as it always does. There has not been a year in the past 150 years of record-keeping when it has not frozen, and this year had the second-latest freeze date (compare with January 30 in 1932). Now, everyone (in the Limnology or Climatology departments or anyone who is just interested) is watching if the record for the shortest time of freeze is going to be broken. And when you compare the longest duration of freeze (161 days in 1880-81) to the shortest (21 days in 2001-02), you cannot but wonder what would happen one century from now. Would it have happened if they had elected Al Gore in place of George Bush?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Super Sunday

As always, also this morning, I strolled into my balcony with my morning cuppa. Madison received a whopping 5.9 inches of snow through the day (second only to 6 inches on January 21, 1998), thus preventing timely clearing up of the snow from sidewalks and roads. It was a pleasure to watch from my balcony as the snow flurries drifted slantingly towards the ground, almost as if it were a world lacking gravitation. It was most certainly dreamy! The worldly worries of having to scrape the snow off my car or my sidewalk didn't bother me much. Well, that's because I don't have either!

Who goes out on a snowy Sunday morning to the lab to work? I do, not always, but this morning, and I am glad I did. As I set out, all decked with layers that Wisconsinites are always encouraged to drape themselves in, I didn't realize that the journey to my place of work would be more than another mundane excursion. Okay, my bad that I presumed that buses would run late on a day like this. It is times like these that I curse myself for being 'minute-wise, hour-foolish', so that I get some additional time to check e-mails or surf the internet aimlessly for few more minutes. It seemed like the holiday route bus-driver took his job almost as seriously as I do, and drove past the bus-stop at quite the right time, even as I scampered a few minutes late! So, anyway, I decided I can do with some walking. 'Its not that far', I thought, and 'Its good for health, too!'. To dampen the efficacy of my intellectualization of this exercise, I saw a bus pass by in the opposite direction , easily 5 minutes later than it should have. 'That's the Murphy's law in action', I thought. But lately, I have come to believe that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps, He wanted me to take to the path by foot.
The feeling of walking on virgin snow-covered paths was a mixture of childish and sinister pleasure for me. Occasionally, I turned back to look proudly at the trail I left behind, a path no one had ever walked before, at least this morning! Soon, when I was a few blocks from home, I joined a bunch of kids noisily making a snowman, or at least something that looked like one. I had never done it before, and I thought there is never a better time than NOW. I
excitedly offered my services and could see myself regress 20 years in age as I joined these kids. 15 minutes later, I was richer with another first experience of its kind. As I bade my new buddies good day and good bye and continued my walk, I felt a unique sense of relaxation and happiness that rejuvenated me for a wonderful day at work. There were passers-by who were skiing, some snowboarding, some just throwing snowballs at each other. Truly, sometimes these simple pleasures of nature far supersede any artificial joy rides. Then, as and when I peaked out of my lab window during the day, the view of a white and pure landscape livened me even more (as in the picture below). On my way back that day, I didn't wait for the bus. I decided I didn't need any!