Mono Lake Foam

January 03, 2013

MonoLakeNelP1000116 (2)

Photographer: Nel Graham 
Summary Authors: Nel Graham; Jim Foster

The photo above shows Mono Lake, California and the eastern Sierra Nevada Range tinged in white after an early season (October 2008) snowstorm. What appears to be snow at the edge of the water is actually foam whipped up by strong winds. The highly alkaline and saline chemistry of the lake water, when whipped by winds, facilitates the foamy formations. This foam is much like that caused by agitating dish washing detergent. Writer Mark Twain characterized the foaminess of Mono Lake as follows:

"The lake is two hundred feet deep, and its sluggish waters are so strong with alkali that if you only dip the most hopelessly soiled garment into them once or twice, and wring it out, it will be found as clean as if it had been through the ablest of washerwomen's hands. While we camped there our laundry work was easy. We tied the week's washing astern of our boat, and sailed a quarter of a mile, and the job was complete, all to the wringing out. If we threw the water on our heads and gave them a rub or so, the white lather would pile up three inches high."

Photo details: Camera Maker: Panasonic; Camera Model: DMC-TZ4; Focal Length: 5.6mm (35mm equivalent: 44mm); Aperture: f/3.6; Exposure Time: 0.0010 s (1/1000); ISO equiv: 100; Software: Ver.1.0.