Sunday, December 28, 2008

Great Weather for What?

The weather here has been bizarre. Friday morning it was near zero; the winds were howling and it was snowing. Saturday afternoon it was over 55 degrees F, and raining. In three days, we have seen snow, rain, fog, thunder, and lightening. Finally, today we see the sunshine, and the temperatures are more normal for this time of year at about 26 degrees.

Burlee, the pug, is happy to see grass (he much prefers it to snow) and I can see open water again. This is a picture taken today from my third floor balcony over looking Southport Marina ( to the left), Eichelman Park and then the open waters of Lake Michigan. Some snow remains, but most of it is gone.

Crazy weather? Yes, but ideal for pothole formation, or as I heard someone on the radio today call them – pavement eruptions. Deep pits already plague the roads- or maybe the potholes I am seeing are the ones left over from last year, or even the year before. It happens every winter in these northern climates. The roads freeze, thaw, and the pavement buckles, leaving big pits, small holes, deep valleys, and shallow ruts. Then the snow melts and fills up the potholes. Needless to say, I am not fond of potholes. Last year, both Michael and I had flat tires because of them. They make driving difficult, and take a toll on your car. I suppose they are good for tire sales and wheel alignment specialists, but not too many others.

This freeze-thaw cycle is nothing new. Between 20,000 and 10,000 years ago, toward the end of the last Ice Age, fluctuations in temperature occurred as the glaciers retreated from what is now the northern United States. The ice didn’t disappear all at once, and the effect on the landscape of the northern part of this continent was much more dramatic than that a few potholes could produce.

When the glaciers retreated, they left identifiable geological formations. Rocks, boulders and other materials were carried along with the retreating ice and left in strange places. I love the name given to these – they are called erratics. So erratics aren’t just eccentric folks. They are actually rocks and boulders, and glacier debris, which scraped along the land and left visible striations in the bedrock. Kettles and moraines, depressions and hills left behind by the retreating ice, were also formed. Those are great terms - much more poetic than calling the crevices potholes.

Lakes and rivers were created, too. They filled up with glacial meltwaters, and although their forms shifted and modified, changes in climate and temperature were responsible for the formation of the Great Lakes and the surrounding basin. In Wisconsin, the Ice Age Trail, a National Scenic Trail of the National Park Service, is a great way to actually see what the glaciers left behind. Michael and I have only been on a few sections of it – nowhere near the 1,000 miles that meander through the state.

There is no question that hiking on the Ice Age Trail is much more fun than driving through streets full of potholes. Somehow, I don’t think 10,000 years from now people will be hiking the Pothole Trial –although unfortunately it may be that some of those potholes will be around that long.


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