Monday, October 19, 2009


Today has been one of those cold, down to your
bones kind of cold that is very moist and
makes you creak when you walk. It's also
been rather misty and foggy, but not a typical
kind of fog. Some here are mistakenly calling
it Hoarfrost. But according to my friend Grump,
this phenomenon is called Pogonip.
Pogonip is clinging to almost everything and I
think if a person were to stand outside long and
still enough, it would cling to them too!

According to Wikipedia...

A type of fog consisting of fine ice crystals
suspended in the air. It can happen only in
cold areas of the world since water can remain
liquid down to -40 °C (-40 °F). It should
be distingued from diamond dust, a precipitation
of sparse ice crystal falling from clear sky.

In western United States ice fog is commonly
known as pogonip. It occurs very rarely during
cold winter spells, usually in deep mountain
valleys. Ice fog can be quite common in Alaska,
since the temperature frequently drops below
34 °C (-30 °F) in the winter months.

Pogonip only forms under the right conditions,
the humidity has to be near 100% as the air
temperature drops to well below 0 °C (32 °F),
allowing ice crystals to form in the air. The
ice crystals will then settle onto surfaces.

The name pogonip is an English adaptation of
the Shoshone word meaning "cloud" (payinappih).
The English-speaking settlers who encountered
this unpleasant and sometimes scary phenomenon
when they went out West in the 1800s needed a
word for it and they borrowed it from local

A folk etymology says that pogonip means "white
death" because the pogonip fog is so thick you
can't even see your hand. Go out in it and you'll
be lost in seconds. If it lingers you'll die of
starvation or exposure. Breathing pogonip can
damage your lungs thus the term white death.

In The Old Farmer's Almanac, in the calendar
for December, the phrase "Beware the Pogonip"
regularly appears. In Smoke Bellew Jack London
described Pogonip which happened to main
characters, killing one of them.


Lori Murray said...

Ah yes, ice fog. We get way too much of it and it means our helicopter can't fly.

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