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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ice spikes

Last March a triangular ice spike appeared on our bird bath.  I was reminded of it by Roy Spencer's recent post on ice spikes he has observed in Alabama. He also links to this laboratory study which used ice cubes in a tray, but presumably the mechanism is similar.

In the case of an ice spike forming in an ice cube tray, water first freezes at the surface, starting at the edges the cube, and the ice subsequently expands laterally until only a small hole in the ice surface remains. Then the continued freezing of water beneath the surface forces water up through the hole, where it freezes around the edge of the hole to form the beginnings of a hollow tube. Continued freezing forces water up through the tube, where it freezes around the rim and lengthens the tube. At some point the tube freezes shut and growth stops. 

As you can probably see, there was snow on the ground and the bird bath is quite shallow which seems to help. Wikipedia has more info.


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Sackerson said...


CherryPie said...

A fabulous photo :-)

A K Haart said...

Sackers and Cherry - they are remarkable things when you come across one. We are due for a few frosty nights so I'll be checking the bird bath each morning.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Cool. One day I'll move to a cold region and buy myself a bird bath.

A K Haart said...

Mark - they are fairly rare. We have two bird baths but have only ever seen this one spike.