13 February 2014


Every generation or so, someone finds a tool or other artifact, a piece of human remains, or even a wooly mammoth encased in ice.

Whenever I have learned of such things, I wondered how those people and creatures and things got themselves cryogenically preserved without the aid of Bird’s Eye.  Did a glacier overtake them from behind?  Did the temperature suddenly drop when they were underdressed?  Or were they buried in snow by some stone proto-plow?

(I read somewhere that Clarence Birdseye came up with the idea of deep-freezing fresh vegetables during an ice-fishing trip in the Yukon.  But I digress.)

I found myself speculating on these frosty aspects of our natural history when I saw a report showing cars encased in ice while parked alongside New York City streets.  Apparently, they were buried in snow plowed off traffic lanes.  Since the weather between snow- and ice-storms hasn’t remained warm enough for long enough for snow to melt, today’s snow is piled on top of last week’s layer, which in turn was dumped on the previous week’s accumulations—which turns to water from the pressure, then freezes.  

If I correctly recall what I learned an ice age ago in the one and only geology course I took, those benighted Buicks and unfortunate Toyotas were caught up in a process identical to the one that forms glaciers.  The difference is, of course, that plows don’t push new snow onto the old:  Instead, the snow that’s turning to ice is blanketed from above.

If we are indeed entering a New Ice Age, will some future hiker of climber find fenders, hubcaps or even whole cars englaciated in the remains of our urban lanes and country roads?  Or will they find tri-spoke wheels and frames that look as if they were designed by Salvador Dali tethered by a rusted Kryptonite lock to the pole of a parking meter encased in an ice cube too big for a glass of artificially colored and sweetened fizzy water?

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