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'Graupeling' with the language of spring.

Byline: George Barnes

There must be some sort of medical condition to describe this, but it seems many people are desperately looking for something amusing they can share about weather.

I offer you graupel (rhymes with apple).

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service offered up the word on Twitter to describe some of the wind-driven white stuff falling from the sky. Eric Fisher, CBS Boston's chief meteorologist, referred to it as "hail's awkward cousin,'' which I think is an apt description. Try shouting out "Hail!'' The response is likely to be "Hail!'' It makes you sound like a Roman senator. Then shout out, "Graupel!'' People will rush to prescribe you medication.

Graupel, according to the NWS's list of weather terms, is small pellets of ice created when super-cooled water droplets coat, or rime, a snowflake. The pellets are cloudy white, not clear like sleet, and often mistaken for hail. It falls apart more easily than hail, something those who have an awkward cousin or two might understand.

Rime is not the opposite of reason, but tiny balls of ice that form when tiny drops of water (usually not precipitation) freeze on contact with the surface, again according to the NWS.

The National Weather Service lists about 720 weather terms that include everything from ablation to Zulu time. Many of the terms are endearing, such as anvil zits, cloud streets, horse latitudes, knuckles, mamma clouds, steam clouds and, of course, graupel.

I found myself reading about graupel, not because I was looking to write about weather words, but because I thought it was a possible sign of spring. After a winter in which terms such as blizzard, snow load, snow depths and snow advisories dominated, it was refreshing to see something different. Hail, and graupel, fall even in the summer.

After hearing about graupel, I started looking up spring weather words. Spring started Friday, at least on the calendar.

The first thing I stumbled on was the weather service's 51-page list of terms. I also found a list on www.words-to-use.com that lightened my heart. The latter could be the most pleasant list of words ever.

The NWS list gives a nod to spring but is more focused on storm terminology. The worst storms seem to be in winter and summer. But it did offer a few fun spring terms, including freshet, which is the annual spring rise in streams in cold climates as a result of snow melt, and frog storm, the first bad weather in spring after a warm period. The weather service also has a term for the season when gardens grow, but the definition sounds grim. The definition for growing season is, disturbingly, the period between the last killing frost of spring and the first killing frost of autumn.

The spring words I found on www.words-to-use.com are designed specifically to make people squeal with delight. They include fair, fertile, abloom, invigorating, fragrant, joyful, pastel, romping, scampering, sun-kissed, unpredictable and many more -- a total of 98 words.

I admit, spring is not always blissful. The cold rain of early spring can be less delightful, vibrant or chirping than we imagine. It actually kind of stinks. The return of black flies, ticks, mosquitoes and feral cats can also be not as rejuvenating, inspiring or lively as described in lovely poems by William Wordsworth and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Also, the rebirth of poison ivy, reinfestation of ants and visits by nervous skunks can also be very far from heavenly or airy. But in general, spring offers all of us renewing verdant vibrancy and lush barefoot blossoming.

In other words, it is something to look forward to.

Contact George Barnes at george.barnes@telegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @georgebarnesTG
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Barnes, George
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 21, 2015
Words:623
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