Pogonip (Ice Fog or Frozen Death)


January 9, 2011 by torqdog

 (click on any photo to enlarge)

I love my job! It has me out and about which affords me the opportunity to see many beautiful things and I always have a camera on hand of some kind to capture that beauty. Lately here in the Carson City area, we’ve been experiencing very cold temps (single digit to lower teen lows with highs in the low 30s) with a strong inversion layer in place. The perfect conditions for Pogonip.

From wikipedia;

In the 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 interior and northern Alaska, since the temperature frequently drops below -40 °C (-40 °F) in the winter months. Pogonip only forms under specific 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 populations.

Supposedly, western Native Americans called it “frozen death” because it took so many lives from upper respiratory infections.


Wally’s Hot Springs, Genoa, Nevada


That’s a Golden Eagle sitting on the upper right branch

A closeup of that Golden Eagle

Yes, the Ice Goddess wears a wig.

I don’t need a weather station to tell me it’s cold outside, but it helps.

This photo illustrates what I sometimes find in my line of work. Taken on 12/08/2009 when it was  -15 degrees, we just postpone orders on meter sets like this until the afternoon “thaw” allows ice removal. Fun stuff!


8 thoughts on “Pogonip (Ice Fog or Frozen Death)

  1. Jane says:

    awesome thanks!

  2. Stu says:

    When I lived in Ellensburg WA for a couple years we would get what the locals called Hoar Frost, which looked very similar. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frost

    Great photos, thanks!

  3. Da Goddess says:

    I think image 113 is my favorite.

    Truly beautiful, but glad I’m not having to navigate the ice and the freezing temps.

    • torqdog says:

      Thanks Joanie. Image 113 was taken from my Blackberry and I was really disappointed I didn’t have a real camera for that shot.

  4. Becky says:

    Beautiful! I can’t say I love my job, but I LOVE my commute to work in the northwoods in any season. In the winter I’m able to observe many a sight like these. Funny you bring up “ice fog”, because this is the first winter I ever heard the term. Our local radio station kept mentioning ice fog one morning in Dec., and I had never heard of it before. I always thought it had to be warmer for fog to form and thought it very odd, but now I know the science behind it. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Da Goddess says:

    I like it just as it is, randy

  6. torqdog says:

    What a difference a week makes. When I started this thread, we were having temps that barely made it to freezing by day and would get down to single digits by night.

    Today in Carson City it was 68 degrees. That’s 2 degrees shy of 70. Needless to say, I fired up the barbie tonight with some deliciously thick Costco sized pork chops. Splendido!!!

  7. rockinRon says:

    Some choice pics.
    Great how ordinary objects become extraordinary when you apply cold air and moisture.

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