I flipped on the tube the other morning and the TV weather forecaster was using the highly technical term “diamond dust” to describe what’s been going on here in Calgary over the past couple of days.  It made me think of little fairies flitting about at sunrise, their delicate wings catching the light just so as they sprinkled the trees with icy filaments of sparkling snow conjured from the still, cold air.  And then I got to wondering if maybe we ought to use science-based language for weather reports, you know…just because.


I remember when I was very young and we were having a cold snap during the winter – it was consistently minus 40 something degrees Celsius for over a week.  We lived out in the country at the time and remote car starters weren’t a thing back then so my Dad had to go outside and start the vehicle to warm it up before driving into town to work.  One morning he walked inside, shaking frost off of his coat, and announced that the air was so cold “you could cut it with a knife!”  I was absolutely captivated by this expression, I kept rolling it around in my head and trying to figure out how a person would go about doing something like that.   Did you need a sharp steak knife, or would a flat butter knife do?  Did you just go outside and start slashing away or should you choose a specific piece of the air to cut?

I’m not sure what I would have done with the concept of frost as “diamond dust.”  I guess that’s how stories and poems get written.  And weather reports, apparently.  😉




  1. I hadn’t heard of the “cut with a knife” saying…I like it! I used to say when it got that cold that it was “nose-hair-crinkle cold”…great pix too…

  2. Beautiful photographs and I really enjoyed your story, I have not experienced minus 40c it sounds seriously cold. Love the term ‘Diamond Dust’ too is so evocative.

  3. Your photos are so beautiful. I always like when it gets so cold that the snow squeaks when you walk on it 🙂

  4. I have never heard that expression used when talking about the weather. I have only heard people say ‘you could cut the atmosphere with a knife’ when someone has said something awful and everyone becomes embarrassed! I do like your father’s use of words though. I have never been anywhere that cold before – I think minus 12 degrees centigrade is the coldest I have experienced in this country! Diamond Dust is a lovely description too – that really sparkly dry snow that I have only seen a couple of times. Beautiful! Lovely photographs too. Have a very happy Christmas!

    • Happy Christmas to you as well! Enjoy the holiday season!

      Ah yes, I know that expression as well – I may have been in a room where that’s happened a time or two, LOL!

      Our winters can get pretty crazy here…it can be a bit tough to take! I always wonder what kind of a shock it must be to travellers and people moving here from warm climates…they must think we’re all lunatics to live here.

      • I think it must take a lot of getting used to if you emigrate to Canada. We had fairly near neighbours who did emigrate about twelve years ago and even though they had known what they were letting themselves in for I think it was quite hard for them at first. As far as I know they are still there!

  5. I love the expression Diamond Dust – it does sound quite magical, and frost IS somehow magical when it clings to everything and sparkles. Lovely post Sheryl!

  6. I so agree: daimond dust, tree noise, mist as thick as soup, fluttering breezes and watery sunshine…the weather reports could be so much more poetic! And beautiful photos! Have a great weekend, Johanna

    • Thanks, Johanna! We do have some wonderful expressions for weather in every language, don’t we? As long as we get the factual information as well, the weather report could benefit from a little “dressing up”!

      I hope you have a wonderful weekend as well! Your boys are both home now for the holidays, are they? (I’m so behind in reading, I know I have yet to see a couple of your recent posts). Enjoy!

  7. Hi Sheryl, I have only ever heard of hoar frost, diamond dust sounds so much prettier. I love your photos. while I am not missing the Calgary Cold, I am very much missing the sunshine. Happy Holidays to you and your family, see you in 2015

    • Thanks, Janice – I’ve been so enjoying all your posts from Germany and Amsterdam…you’ve been treated to some amazing sights and I think spending the holidays there would be such a wonderful experience. We’ve had it pleasantly warm here, with plenty of Chinook cloud and very little snow, although it sounds like we might get a skiff of the white stuff just in time for Christmas. All the best wishes of the season to you and your family!

  8. You captured the best pictures of frost – I have heard “you can cut it with a knife” before! I think frost is so pretty during the winter months – maybe I will have to brave the cold and take some pictures myself 🙂

  9. As jmeyersforman mentioned above, Mike our Global Edmonton weather guy still calls this hoar frost too. I like ‘Diamond Dust’ so much better but I bet he’d get a bunch of staunchy old Edmonton weather guru’s sending him texts and emails, LOL He’s explained what it takes to have the phenom occur a couple of times lately, but I haven’t really paid good attention. It’s so pretty though isn’t it? At least until the Sun warms up. You’ve captured it well with your fab photo’s too.

  10. Love the pics. I remember our cold, cold childhood days in Nebraska when my dad used to plug the car in (even though it was in a garage) to keep it warm enough to start the next day.

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