Seasonal Cycles: Ice In

Snow and ice are considered integral parts of winter in New England and provide an abundance of cold-weather activities such as skiing, ice skating, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and snowball fights. With climate change, winter temperatures in New England will also become warmer. These increased temperatures have already led to more winter days with rain instead of snow and fewer days when the ground in New England is covered by snow.

Decreases in snow accumulation on the ground and ice on ponds and lakes limit our ability to enjoy winter sports in New England. Less snow also has ecological consequences. Snow insulates the soil, acting like a blanket, and in a warmer winter, a lack of snow can actually lead to deeper frost in the soil. How these deeper frosts affect the structure and ecology of the soil is being actively investigated by scientists. One effect seems to be that the populations of small insects and spiders are reduced. Small roots are also liable to be damaged when soil freezes deeply in winters with little or no snow, affecting the ability of trees to take up water and nutrients in the spring.

thoreau snowshoes

Thoreau bought these snowshoes in Maine and tried them in Concord in December 1853 in the midst of a heavy snowfall.

Walking Stick

Thoreau gave this walking stick, marked at one-inch intervals to facilitate observations made while walking, to his friend H.G.O. Blake.

Concord Museum Curator David F. Wood speaks on film about Thoreau’s snowshoes from the Museum’s collection.

To Learn More

Listen to the sounds of winter that one might hear at Walden Pond.

Learn more about Maine Indian snowshoes.

Learn how to measure snowfall.

Background photo credit: Cherrie Corey
Photo/film/soundscape credits: David Bohl; Six One Seven Studios; Kezia Simister