It is that time of the year again: when the weather nicely reveals the effect of microclimate on the landscape.
If the world gets covered in a thin layer of snow, we can quickly see which spots are colder than others.
And that knowledge reveals some interesting patterns that would otherwise easily stay unnoticed. These patterns are very important for my research, which is why I am happy to share them with you.
It is easy to see what happened in this series of pictures. The snow covered the whole top of the mountain in a nice blanket, except for the trail. There, the snow did not want to stay, at least not at this intensity. We were the first (and maybe the only…) hikers of the day, so it was not a question of high traffic. More likely, it was a slight but significant difference in temperature between the vegetation and the open, disturbed, trail.
So it turns out our trail is slightly warmer than its environment, which might be a good thing. Yet, there is another side to this story: Even though the trail might be warmer at the moment, it will end up having no protective snow cover. When temperatures drop during the night, the soil surface on the trail will drop substantially more on the trail then around it.