Sunday, March 25, 2018

The physics of maple syrup - Part 1

The sugar maple is a very unique tree in the world.  In the Spring, the sap runs up and down every day, as long as we have freezing at night, and above freezing during the day.

All trees are giant water pumps.  They take water from very deep in the ground to hundreds of feet high.  It's a marvel of natural engineering.  All stumbled upon by blind evolution.  All trees move fluid through transpiration.  The water evaporates from the leaves, causing great osmotic pressure gradients, and the water is driven by this.  This is a lot of solar energy.

But the maple tree adds an extra wrinkle.  I was thinking of this as we are ending a 'Classic March', which we haven't had for 20 years or so.  The Maple Syrup Season has come to an end.  And this is the type of cold, dry March that evolved the maple tree.

Perhaps it is a bit sad for us.  This is the type of March that has been the main thing for our climate, for a couple of million years, or however long the maple tree has been around.  Our recent warm spell gave us 'Instant furnace change', where I was using the heat one day, and needed the air conditioning the next.  No classic Spring.  The maple trees were all dying.

** to be continued, I'm doing Early Easter today, because all the kids vamoose next weekend.

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