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Snow pile lives on in Framingham

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  June 10, 2011 05:03 PM

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(photo by Jaclyn Reiss)

At first glance, the five-foot high pile of dirt in a lot near the AMC Theatres’ overflow parking in Framingham does not leave much of an impression.

But looking closer, underneath the inch-thick sediment and discarded beer cans, vodka nips and BIC lighters, a sheet of ice and snow lives on, reminding residents of the record-breaking blizzards from this past winter.

“I knew it was going to last this long,” Framingham resident Marlene Marsh said of the pile, which reached enormous heights during the winter. “I was sure it was going to last through July. It will take a few weeks [to melt].”

Framingham resident Terry Wing is amazed at the snow pile’s resilience.

“It’s awesome and cool that it still exists after all this time,” she said. “The fact that it existed through the weather changes is pretty amazing.”

Margaret Carroll, Framingham State University biology professor, gave a scientific explanation to the snow pile that won't die.

“It takes a lot of energy to melt frozen water,” Carroll said.

The pile’s massive size, she said, kept it from dissipating.

“You have the issue of what we refer to as surface area to volume ratio,” she said. “When you pile it up and on top of each other, you end up with a large volume. Everything inside is well insulated by the snow.”

Carroll said that the surface area of the pile also contributed to its long life.

“If you take an ice cube, but took the same amount of water and froze it in a thin layer and put the two on a countertop, the cube would melt slower even though it’s the same volume of water because there’s much more surface area, will melting faster,” she said. “If you took the pile and spread it out it in a thin layer, it would melt quicker.”

Although Carroll said she has not seen the pile herself, the layer of dirt could be either adding or detracting to the mound’s height.

“I don’t know how thick the dirt is, but if it’s thick it might act as insulator,” she said. “If it’s a thin layer, then the darkness would actually absorb heat, whereas the white would be more reflective.”

Carroll said that she was not surprised that the pile still exists due to snowplows adding continuously throughout the winter, and said this type of phenomenon is not uncommon.

“It depends on where you are and the size of the snow pile, but I don’t think it’s unheard of,” she said.

Framingham spent $3.2 million on snow removal last year, over triple the budgeted $900,000.

The landlord responsible for the lot, Developers Diversified Realty, and the Framingham Department of Public Works, did not return calls made to inquire about the snow pile.

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