Mt. Nusatsum

Mt. Nusatsum

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


While spending time doing winter activities in the fabulous South Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and watching the animal tracks you see everywhere I started wondering about what all these various critters were up to and where they all go.  With the bigger tracks it's pretty obvious that they are on the move all the time on top the snow.  When it came to the smaller ones like mice, weasels, and voles, you occasionally see small tracks and then they disappear down a hole or big tracks following small tracks and then the small tracks disappear down a hole.  I knew there was a world down there and it is usually a lot warmer than us humans are experiencing on the top, but it turns out these little critters have got a whole other world going on below the snow and there is even a fancy name for it.

Scientists who try hard to explain things, tend to use big words and fancy names and they have named this special little place between the earth and the bottom of the snowpack.  The term "subnivean" derives from latin of 'sub' meaning below and 'niv' meaning snow, they came up with the term subnivean - space beneath the snow.  There is a lot information about the subnivean world, but the key thing to know is that it's warm down there.  Apparently  no matter what the air temperature is, as long as there is a decent pack of snow, the temperature stays very close to 0 C at the ground and causes a little space to form that weasels, mice, and voles use to get around all winter.  You can see the evidence when you are hiking in the alpine in the spring and start seeing the runs they formed and the piles of droppings.  All those predators like lynx, coyotes and fox and birds of prey know about this under snow world and that eventually it will pay off if they keep watching those holes, someone will come out to see what it's like on the top side. Grizzly

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