Odd Snowfall or Aliens?

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Odd Snowfall or Aliens?

Post by rogerwimmer » Sun Dec 28, 2014 8:08 am

Doc: It snowed in our area yesterday and outside of our radio station is a split-rail fence. I can see three segments of the fence from my office window. The top rails on the left and right segments have about 1” of snow, but the top rail in the middle segment has about 4” of snow. How can that be? How can it snow more in the middle fence segment than on the two sides of the middle segment? Aliens or something? - Anonymous

Anon: I’ll have to admit that I laughed when I read your question. I don’t think I can attribute the phenomenon to aliens. I think there is a better answer and the key to your answer is “split-rail fence,” and a good example of one is shown in this photo. On to your question . . .

As the photo shows, the posts and rails in a split-rail fence are not uniform in how they are cut. While the height of the posts and the length of the rails are the same, the width dimensions of the posts and rails are different – due to the fact that the items are split, not cut with a saw.

Instead of aliens causing the difference in snow depth on the rails, or some amazing atmospheric phenomenon, I believe you are experiencing an interesting optical illusion. My guess is that the tops of the rails on the left and right segments are close to parallel to the ground (that is, they are flat), and the top rail in the middle segment is angled toward you (the radio station) at a severe angle. What you are seeing is not 4” of snow on the rail of the middle segment, but 1” of snow on an angle that makes it look like 4” from your vantage point. However, if you see an alien out there in the near future, please let me know and I’ll change my answer.

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Roger Wimmer is owner of Wimmer Research and senior author of Mass Media Research: An Introduction, 10th Edition.

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