Friday, January 7, 2011

Pogonip Descends on Reno!

     Praise the Lord from the earth… hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
– Psalm 148:7, 8
     This morning, we awoke to find the valley shrouded in icy gray fog. Every pine tree, fencepost, and skeletal vine was covered in what we in the West call pogonip. Pogonip is our word for the rare ice fog that produces dramatic and beautiful spiked frost covering everything. It's almost like overnight, snowflakes were magnified a thousand times and then attached to everything, and now with your naked eye you can actually see their intricate crystalline structures. Conditions have to be just right for pogonip to form: temperatures have to be below freezing, and humidity has to be at about 100%, which is a rare occurrence in the high desert. It's a spectacular, yet eerie sight.

     The first Americans found it difficult to see any beauty in pogonip. The word comes from a Shoshone word meaning "white death" or "frozen death". The Washoe Indians who summered at Lake Tahoe, but wisely wintered here in the valley where it's usually warmer, often saw weaker or older persons in their tribe carried off by respiratory diseases during such extreme weather.

      Still, pogonip's delicate white splendor remains, and this morning's rush-hour seems somehow hushed… muted, as though even busy commuters recognize they are in the presence of some of God's finer handiwork.


  1. Lovely post and even lovelier pictures - pity pogonip is not such a lovely word.

    I particularly like the close up of white furry twigs.

    Since we are currently enjoying a mild frost-free spell, it is easier to appreciate pictures of this quality. Thankyou

  2.       I'm glad you liked it! Is this the same as what you in England would call hoarfrost? I've never been quite sure of that word.

  3. Rick - the photos are absolutely beautiful. It was an amazing sight - which I'm so glad you captured and explained to us new-folk!


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