Tag Archive: Christmas Carols


Merry Christmas and a Snow Carol

3 snowflake basblgrnMerry Christmas (or happy whatever solstice holiday you celebrate.)

In honor of the season I’m posting one of my Geophysical Christmas Carols, and to help the words go with the music, a recording of my singing it. I’m not much of a singer, but this might help you hear how it goes together. (I’m still trying to figure out how to do this sound thing, so you may have to go through several clicks.) Meanwhile, to see the words while listening to the song, open the blog in two windows, click the audio link in one and then switch back to the other. (And you’ll catch me making a couple of mistakes that way!)

In the air, vapor’s swirling,535basblyel
On the pond, folks are curling,
The vapor makes drops, the drops freeze and pop,
And six-sided snowflakes fall down.

On the lake, skates are gliding,
Overhead, clouds are hiding,
Ice in the sky is growing, oh, my,
And six-sided snowflakes fall down

snowflakeSnowflakes could be square or five pointed,
Or octagons, or spherical, you know,
But water with water is jointed
So that only six arms can grow.

On the slopes, skiers swish on,
Snowflakes hide stars to wish on,
They fall through the air, and catch in your hair,
The six-sided snowflakes fall down.baslev

(The snowflakes were Photoshopped from those included on the CD-ROM with Bentley’s book.)

Poems and Songs

Here’s an index of the poems, songs and song parodies I’ve posted.

Poems
The Bargain 5/17
Cat and Man 6/22/10
Love Song 7/26/11
Old Gods 4/28/11
Haiku 5/26/11
Things my Dogs have Taught Me 6/16/11
Thunderstorm 6/30/11
Sheep 7/7/11
Calypso 7/14/11
On an Exhibition of Photographs by Barry McWayne: 1932-2010  7/23/11
Readiness 8/4/11
The Place Where You Go to Listen 8/18/11
Sunrise 8/25/11
Skyscape 10/13/11
Rain Clouds 10/27/11
To the Poet, from His Cat 11/3/11
Dreams 3/6/12

Songs (not parodies)
Apart 8/1/10

Songs (parodies)
White Christmas 11/23/10
O Christmas Tree 11/25/10
Here Comes Ice Fog 12/1/10
Plate Tectonics Carol 12/3/10
Where have All the Glaciers Gone 12/7/10
Arctic Haze 12/10/10
Climate Change 12/14/10
Snow Carol 12/16/10
O Permafrost 12/21/10
There Were Three Quarks 12/23/10
The Greenhouse Carol 1/1/10
The Twelve Days of Christmas 1/5/11
The Glacier March 12/1/11
Let it Snow 12/15/11
Merry Christmas and a Snow Carol (audio) 12/25/12

The El Nino Carol

Another parody carol, to be sung to the tune of “Greensleeves.”

What child is this, who stops the wind
And changes weather globally,
Who paints the boats of fishermen
And drives their prey to the Arctic.

This, this is El Nino who
Brings thunder to the desert shore.
Whose arms hold a child so wild?
Ah, who but my lady ENSO.

He brings wild storms to the western coasts
And batters California,
Sends drought and floods to Africa
And halts the monsoon in India.

This, this is El Nino who
Brings drought to islands across the sea.
Whose arms hold a child so wild?
Ah, who but my lady ENSO.

So tuna sport in Alaskan seas,
And clouds boil high over desert sands,
And crops are battered or blown to dust
As the child feeds on global warming.

This, this is El Nino who
Brings warmth and rain to Alaska.
Whose arms hold a child so wild?
Ah, who but my lady ENSO.

If you’re not familiar with this aspect of meteorology, El Nino refers to the periodic reversal of winds in the equatorial Pacific, associated with changes in the sea surface temperature field. It got its name from the fact that it was first recognized along the west coast of South America where it hits around Christmas time, hence the name, El Nino (the Christ-child.) It was also called “The Painter,” because the mass die-offs of fish when the water warmed produced quantities of hydrogen sulfide, which in turn affected the color of fishermen’s boats. It is now recognized as a part of the ENSO (El-Nino Southern Oscillation) cycle, which has worldwide effects on climate.

Let it Snow

This carol is wishful thinking this year, without enough snow to keep the buried water lines from freezing. But we’ve had winters like this, and there are parts of the country where this (aside from the Aleutians) may be appropriate this year.

Let it Snow (1994, to the tune of “Let It Snow”)

Oh, we’re setting new records nightly
As the snow keeps falling whitely.
The skiers are eager to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Oh, the traffic is crawling slowly
As the birches bend more lowly,
For the plowers it’s go! Go! GO!
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Long before Christmas wreaths the door
We’ll have all of our snow for the year.
So it won’t need to snow yet more,
But it won’t work that way, so I fear.

The Aleutians new storms keep spitting,
And Alaska they keep hitting,
But it’s better than forty below,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

(You should realize that in my part of Alaska, it has to warm up to snow. There just isn’t enough water in the air for significant snow at 40 below.)

The Greenhouse Carol

(To the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”)

Should present climate be forgot,
And ne’er again be seen?
Should glaciers melt and oceans rise
Just because our house is green?
Because our house is green my friends,
Because our house is green,
We’ll sit and swelter in the sun
Because our house is green.

Should deserts spread across the land
While hurricanes grow cruel
From cows and swamps and growing rice,
And from burning fossil fuel?
From burning fossil fuel, my friends,
From burning fossil fuel,
We’ll all dehydrate in the sun
From burning fossil fuel.

Should the I T C Z go away,
And the savannahs return?
Should glaciers melt and cities drown
Because the jungles burn?
Because the jungles burn, my friends,
Because the jungles burn,
We’ll parboil in the tropic sun
Because the jungles burn.

(This was actually written 22 years ago, but it’s as true as ever.)

The Glacier March

“Ice is nice and good for you, Snow makes Glaciers grow.”

Those are the words my dissertation advisor, Carl Benson, used to have us all sing, at the Geophysical Institute Christmas party. We’d sing it in a Salvation Army Band sort of way, to “Onward Christian Soldiers” He generally had a wonderful comic talk to go with it, and to this day if you get a group of old GI folks together and start the song, they will join in. I used to play the trombone with the group — the only playing I’d done for at least 25 years, which may give you an idea of our musical quality (or lack thereof.).

But I wasn’t satisfied. The words were too simple, I kept saying, and I finally wrote a set of my own. Pretty soon I found myself expected to write a new verse every year. The tune stayed the same, and the theme – the glaciers’ point of view on climate change – but I generally tried to incorporate something tied to the year in question.

I missed some years, and lost what I wrote for others. But imagine yourself a glacier, and sing.

1984
Onward grind the glaciers, surging o’er the land.
Ice sheets dream of ice falls where the cities stand.
Though we’re now divided, we’ll together flow
Bringing snow and permafrost and raising albedo,
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1985
Oranges freeze in Florida, Phoenix reels in snow.
All the world is wond’ring where we next will go.
Shall we sink a tanker (Columbia Glacier, solo)
Surge, and raise the sea? (West Antarctic Ice Sheet, solo)
Wrap the world from pole to pole in icy purity? (all)
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1986
See the mighty Hubbard thrust into the sea,
Trapping seals and dolphins, what Fools these mortals be!
Though the rise of Russell Lake swept away their pen,
Wait til next year and the Hubbard will be back again!
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1987
Arctic haze and CO2, Men dispute our sway.
We have plans against them.  See how, far away.
High above Antarctica crystals fill the air,
Helping chlorine take away the Ozone layer there,
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1990
Can the clouds replace us in our feedback role?
Silly bits of vapor climate can’t control.
They don’t even know their sign!  Now that’s just not nice.
We are large and positive.  Let’s hear a cheer for ice!
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1991
Glaciers love a cloudy day, with sulfate drifting high
Pinatubo thrilled us, blasting at the sky.
Aerosols are scatt’ring light. Greenhouse, go away!
We’ll spread out, increase albedo, dig in here to stay.
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1992
Once men thought that winter cold helped to make us grow.
We’ll take any winter, give us summer snow!
Snow in lowlands into May, white Septembers too,
Help us glaciers grow until we surge all over you!
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1994
See the Bering Glacier surging on its way,
Scribing loops and swirlings, geo-art we’d say.
Glaciers all are artists, modeling the land,
Mountains would be boring things, without our helping hand.
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1995
Did you think you understood glaciers’ surging play?
Variegated caught you by surprise, I’d say
Surges’ periodicity varies as we please.
Dam the rivers! Cut the pipeline!  Topple stately trees!
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1996
Blizzards rage across the plains, Floods strike the Northwest
When it comes to weather, glaciers do it best.
Now that ENSO’s gone away we can do our thing.
Chill Alaska AND the East Coast: see what NEXT year brings!
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1997
Once again El Nino blocks our destiny.
Land that once was our land ours again will be.
You can slow us with the breath of you fossil fuels.
If you think you’ve truly stopped us, you are then the fools.
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1998
We are paranoid you think, shrinking back in fear?
Look at what the weather’s handed us this year!
Hardly any snow this spring, little more in fall,
Rain to melt us in the summer.   Strike back, glaciers all!
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

1999
See the Himalayas rise far into the sky,
We will help erode them where the winds blow by,
Sucking carbon from the air, sending it to sea,
Kill the greenhouse, bring the ice house, let the glaciers be!
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

2000
Once the world was covered up pole to pole with snow
Naught you’d see but whiteness, anywhere you’d go.
Glaciers fattened on the land, sea ice ruled the sea.
What an error when the Cambrian let complex life be!
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

2001
Have a little pity for glaciers we pray
Slowly we are melting, trickling away
You are slowly killing us with your carbon breath.
We will raise the seas in vengeance, even in our death!
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

2002
Once again El Nino comes to dispute our sway,
Rain clouds in Alaska, Storm clouds in L.A.
Evil forces stand against those of ice and snow.
If you let the warming triumph where will glaciers go?
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

2003
Sea ice pulls back toward the poles, ice shelves break away.
Heat and drought and wildfires blossom day by day
Men are in denial.  Glaciers still advise:
If we melt we’ll take you with us as the oceans rise!
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

2004
Summers ever warmer grow, smoke clouds fill the sky,
Shielding us, but not enough, from the sun’s white eye.
“Join with those you can’t defeat.”  Shall we take that way?
Melt into the global ocean, wash mankind away?
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

2005
Would you really rather have hurricanes than ice?
Just keep right on playing with those carbon dice.
Warmer waters give the storms greater energy,
You may bind us, but you’ve set the swirling storm clouds free.
Onward yet the glaciers
Surge with pond’rous tread,
With the fimbulwinter
Going on ahead.

Maybe I’ll try to write a new verse this year.

Snowflakes

In the air, vapor’s swirling,
On the pond, folks are curling,
The vapor makes drops, the drops freeze and pop,
And six-sided snowflakes fall down.

On the lake, skates are gliding,
Overhead, clouds are hiding,
Ice in the sky is growing, oh, my,
And six-sided snowflakes fall down

Snowflakes could be square or five pointed,
Or octagons, or spherical, you know,
But water with water is jointed
So that only six arms can grow.

On the slopes, skiers swish on,
Snowflakes hide stars to wish on,
They fall through the air, and catch in your hair,
The six-sided snowflakes fall down.

The rhyme above can be sung, to the tune of “Winter Wonderland.” But it’s also a fairly good outline of why snowflakes look the way they do.

A water molecule is made up of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen atoms are not in a straight line with the oxygen atom, but are angled, like a bent line with the oxygen at the bend.

Ice, being crystallized water, is made up of water molecules in three-dimensional order. The water molecules in an ice crystal are held together by what are called hydrogen bonds — each hydrogen atom links not only with the oxygen in the water molecule, but with the hydrogen atom of a neighboring molecule. Given the shape of the water molecule, the easiest way the molecules can form an ordered structure is a hexagonal lattice. I’m not going to try to draw it, but there is a good drawing in this reference.

Most snowflakes actually start out as water droplets in clouds. A few droplets encounter ice nuclei as the temperature drops below freezing, and freeze into ice droplets. Sometimes the droplets explode to make many ice particles as they freeze, and each bit of ice can nucleate another droplet.

If ice and water are side by side at subfreezing temperatures, the ice will suck up water vapor from the water. The growth on the ice will be strongest at the sites where the crystal lattice juts out farthest, so the frozen droplet rapidly grows into something like a very short bit of a hexagonal pencil. The edges and corners of this hexagonal prism grow fastest, and sometimes even sprout arms.

Why are snowflakes often symmetrical, but different from each other? The type of growth is determined by the temperature and moisture of the air at the moment of growth. As each snowflake follows a slightly different path through the cloud, it will encounter a different sequence of growth than any other snowflake. At the same time, all of its six arms see the same sequence. The result is a snowflake that is fairly symmetrical but different from any other snowflake.

Very simple snowflakes – usually simple hexagonal plates or needles – may look very similar to each other. But the more complex dendritic snowflakes are generally one of a kind, because each has had a unique path through the cloud that spawned them.

We have snow of the ground now, here in Fairbanks, and many other areas farther south will soon. If you live in snow country, invest in a small hand lens and enjoy the myriad shapes of the snowflakes.

(Photos are from Bentley’s collection of snowflake images.)

Twelfth Day

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true-love gave to me:
Twelve plates colliding,
Eleven vents erupting,
Ten glaciers surging,
Nine houses sinking,
Eight cars polluting,
Seven blizzards raging,
Six aurorae swirling,
Five solar flares.
Four chickadees,
Three mammoths,
Two ptarmigan
And a spruce hen in a spruce tree.

Eleventh Day

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true-love gave to me,
Eleven vents erupting,
Ten glaciers surging,
Nine houses sinking,
Eight cars polluting,
Seven blizzards raging,
Six aurorae swirling,
Five solar flares.
Four chickadees,
Three mammoths,
Two ptarmigan
And a spruce hen in a spruce tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true-love gave to me,
Ten glaciers surging,
Nine houses sinking
Eight cars polluting,
Seven blizzards raging,
Six aurorae swirling,
Five solar flares.
Four chickadees,
Three mammoths,
Two ptarmigan
And a spruce hen in a spruce tree.

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