Over the years, I’ve posted photos of one of my favorite winter phenomena and a couple of years ago, blogger Sandra, from A Corner of Cornwall, told me there was a fancy name for it!
Sastruga (pl. sastrugi) It means: “ridges of snow formed on a snowfield by the action of the wind.”
When the wind screams off the lake, it sculpts the snow into constantly changing shapes . . . sastrugi.
Some are subtle.
Some are gorgeous, sinuous, and flashy.
It may look like striations in rock
Or waves of water, breaking
Or just plain peculiar . . .
Sastruga–A new word for you–you’ll need to use it three times, in a sentence, to make it your own . . .
Would you ever have a need for such a word, in your neck of the woods?
Definitely not, in my neck of the woods. In this climate, the only time water forms ice is when you put it in the freezer… But your sastrugi are epic, they remind me of wind-sculpted desert rock, but in the most blinding pristine white.
It’s fascinating to see what wind can do, quickly, with snow and sand, and slowly, with rock!
I had no clue that there was a word for wind-sculpted drifts. These beautiful photos remind me of how, when I was a child, on the day following a major snow storm, I liked to go out and play in the sastruga. (Whew, I’ve used the word “sastruga” once, now I only need to use it two more times and I’ll own it.)
Good start on making the word your own, Sheryl!
I could say that word 3 times but……well……my memory would not hang on to it much after that! LOL! Now that we head to Texas for the winters, I can safely say that my need for such a word has vanished. BUT…..I definitely do remember seeing these fab designs in past winters. Never knew there was a specific word for the phenomenon. Great post!!!!
No, Texas is not the place for sastrugi!
Oh yes! I think we must have had the same storm that hit you earlier this week. Plenty of sastrugi in view out my kitchen window, on rooftops, in the field, in my backyard. Your photos are extraordinary. On first glance I thought you were making an all white, very modern quilt!
It would be a remarkable quilt, if I had the skill to pull it off! I think Ottawa did get the same storm–it was a doozy!
Sounds like a type of hot creamy noodle dish we should make as comfort food for when just such weather is upon us! Photos are amazing, and I know you froze your — off taking them! Thanks for sharing!
That cracks me up, Jane–it *does* sound like a noodle dish! Maybe you could develop the recipe??
Not at all. But I wish I’d known this word when we lived in France, as I could definitely have used it to fine affect when walking in the Pyrenees. What wonderful photos. No wonder you don’t hang your washing out 😉
Right? Can you imagine what my laundry would look like, in the wind that created those snow sculptures?! I should try it sometime, just for fun . . .
… or the challenge….
Great post and the reply’s wonderful ~ (read them all) Never knew the word but glad to learn it since I am sure I will get to use it before this winter is over! There’s always something magical about snow as is with this word!
I do get the best comments from my clever readers, don’t I? File the word away in your memory banks and use it when you can–people will be impressed!
Me too -read the all the replies! 🙂
What sensational sastruga specimens you have! Love those duck bills! I’ve had similar strange formations on ice in a birdbath. I wonder if they would qualify as sastruga? I will use this word today at my son-in-law’s birthday luncheon. They’ll have no clue… Thank you Kerry!
The duck bills fascinated me–I should’ve taken a series of photos, as they developed. I kept waiting for the weight of the snow to break the beaks off but it took rain, the next day, to ruin the look. I hope you got a chance to slip the word into casual conversation!
A terrific post — inspirational (such extraordinary beauty!) and educational (new word: sastruga/sastrugi). We haven’t had much snow yet — but there are many weeks of winter still to come… Thank you for sharing this with all of us!
Aren’t weird new words fun? And I’m sure you’ll get a chance to use it someday, in the Boston area!
Wow, that 2nd one is like a work of art! Beautiful sastruga, great pics, and I’ve learned a new word 🙂
Yes, the second one was a stunner–it kept shifting slightly as the wind blew. It’s really amazing, the power of that wind off the lake!
If I say sastruga enough will it work for sheets of rain do you think? Auto correct wants to turn sastruga into Assyria.
Pesky auto correct! I bet there are arcane words for sheets of rain, too, if we only knew them . . .
😀 That’s why I copied the word and inserted it; you never know what auto correct does when a new word comes up …
Well… at 60* it’s a little hard to find beautiful Sastruga here,or any of that white stuff. I love your photos though, the formations are so unique. Is that what you call limited edition?😁
Oh, sure, rub it in that you are warm there and we . . . aren’t! The sastrugi are limited edition and early expiration–it warmed up a little and now they’re just lumps of snow!
Gorgeous photos! I especially love the duck bills. I will definitely have opportunities to stump my husband with that new word — in winter and maybe when wind ruffles beach sand.
Good–use the word to show off a little!
I did not know this word, and will treasure it to use whenever I’m where snow drifts–which will be less frequently than you! some of those photos are really beautiful, but I bet it’s also really cold there!!!
It’s been wickedly cold–our house faces north and the wind screams across the lake, right at us. I’ll admit, I took the duckbill photo from indoors . . .
Looks like it’s going to get colder! Stay warm.
Those are beautiful sastrugi, Kerry! No, would not need that word here. Not much snow in a cold year, and none so far this year.
No snow for you and we will get another 8-10 inches tomorrow night. Doesn’t seem quite fair!
We finally got snow this week, but it has mostly melted already. 🙂 More in the forecast, though!
What wonderful examples of a new and beautiful word Kerry. Sometimes in wild storms here the sand on the beaches will be left lying in striations and sculpted piles just like the less showy of your snowy pics. (Never seen examples like your #2 or duck bills) Continued movement will flatten out all but the deepest striations however. I Googled, and it is prosaically called ‘fore-dune’ as agin the ‘dune’ of wind and tide swept piles of sand at the back of a beach. You northerners get all the best words! 😀
Sastruga is definitely a a more interesting word than fore-dune! I guess the snow is so light that the wind can really shape it more quickly and easily than it can sand. And we had very high winds . . .
Lovely “sastrugi”! Yes, that is a new word for me. There usually isn’t enough snow and wind in my neck of the woods to make these lovely sculptures. The weather people would get quite excited about getting enough snow with wind to make them.
The weather people here are worked up all winter long–they have so much to talk about! And another storm coming in tomorrow . . .
There is no use for such a beautiful word in my neck of the woods, either. Such a shame, although I have no idea how I would cope with the cold that brings on such amazing formations. Stay warm!
It really has been cold–the wind is the killer. But, in reality, we mostly run from the house to the car and aren’t outside all that long, except, of course, when we have to go out and clear the driveway. Brrrrr . . . .
So cool! The word, the phenomenon, and the pics.
Cool? Yes, and cold even! I do love the phenomenon.
J > The photo after ‘It may look like striations in rock’ shows a surface where the fine ‘layers’ of snow have been partly eroded, and the process is exactly the same (though quicker) as occurs in rocks with layers, such as slate, when exposed to the elements.
Yes! I was thinking of slate exactly!
These are strangely, ethereally lovely – one of nature’s casual gifts that beat all human artistic efforts.
I imagine these shapes have inspired artists over the years–it’s the constant change and shifting that fascinates me.
I’ll have to drive up to the ski station (only half an hour away) and have a look for some sastrugi which, as somebody else has said, sounds like a pasta dish.
Beautiful photos – thank you for those.
I have found myself craving a pasta casserole since that comment appeared!
Wow, these are amazing! We never get enough snow to form these types of shapes – I did wonder if it could apply to sand but it appears sand only gets ‘sand ripples’, but still if I ever get the chance to use sastruga I will!
I wonder if, in desert areas that get wild wind storm, the sand forms these more elaborate sculptures? The snow is so light, the wind can really work its magic.
We have lots of sastrugi here, but not as elaborately sculpted as your off-the-water beauties. I am not such a fan of the word, though. It does sound like a heavy, calorie-laden noodle dish. I’ll stick with snow dunes!
The idea of a heavy, calorie-laden noodle dish makes the word even more appealing to me! I’m a big fan of such. 😉
What a great word! Western SD doesn’t get many of those, usually, I think because we are so dry, our snow is drier. A few wavy lines is mostly what I’ve seen. These are quite majestic sculptures!
That’s funny–I’d think dry snow would really blow but maybe it doesn’t build up at all, in the shapes, because of the dryness? Keep your eyes open–maybe you’ll find some sastrugi and you can casually point them out and impress people!
I will! Maybe this spring when the snow has enough moisture to stick together better.
I love learning new words and new things. Great photos of different examples of things. No, We haven’t had any snow at all this winter. Snow is rare where I live which suits me just fine. But it is magical to observe. Thanks for sharing this.
The variety of shapes we get in the snow always amazes me. It only really happens with the combination of lots of light-weight snow and big winds, which can be pretty unappealing, except for the sastrugi!
Great word! And yes, we need the word, but never anything as dramatic as yours!
Has this been a crazy winter, or what? And another big sloppy warmup is on the horizon . . .
I know! It’s almost like Ma Nature is going through the change!
My goodness, Kerry: who was to know? Those are stunning photos – very interesting.
I didn’t know the word until another helpful blogger clued me in–and it’s a very useful word around here!
Well I’m going to revert to using Latin or at least pig-Latin. Never know why it’s called that, mind you.
You are so right that you have to use a word to make it your own. What a great post! Did you take all the pictures?
Thanks! Yes, I did take the photos, mostly right in my yard.
Did you know that this word was borrowed into English from German but is Russian in origin? I learned that when I looked up how to say it on the Merriam Webster site.
Very interesting! Thanks for the info!
Absolutely for we northerners … and this also reminds me of was one can also see in the sand when at the beach. Hi Kerry!
Hi, Frank–sorry I haven’t been by your place lately! Yes, the snow shapes make me think of sand shapes, too–it just takes bigger winds to move the sand.
No problem. Yes, the sand shapes like this by the wind would be small, but I was thinking of the sand shaped by the water – possibly the water and the wind. After all, both liquids and gases are fluids. Hmmmm ….
oh how I love interesting weather, in the winter particularly. These photos are epic, Kerry! We have so far had only a light dusting of snow. I would love it if we got the kind of drifts you have (but only on days when I don’t need to go out please universe!).
I’d love to send you some of our snow. But we are retired and can mostly stay home until the weather improves so we’re lucky!
Sastruga – I love it! 🙂 It looks breathtakingly beautiful.
The shapes are fascinating, and ephemeral, of course.
Sastruga – thanks for introducing a new word (for me). The pictures of the snow formations look so pretty too 🙂
They are really pretty–it’s the silver lining when we have cold winds and blowing snow!
We definitely get them here, all winter! Lots of wind coming off the mountains here and the snow is constantly shaped by it. I photographed a striking example a few days ago and had no idea it had a special name…. 🙂
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