Growing Ice - An Overview
Dr. James R. Carter, Professor Emeritus
Illinois State University, Normal IL 61790-4400
This page was put together in 2012 support of a radio discussion of my world of growing ice. As such it gives a quick overview of the many types of ice discussed on my other web pages at http://my.ilstu.edu/~jrcarter/ice/
Ice Flowers - Growing on Plant Stems
I found my first ice flowers on a hike in east Tennessee in late December 2003.
I found the ice ribbons below in northern Kentucky in November 2005.
I found seeds of White Crownbeard and planted them in my yard, in big black buckets. In fall 2007 I had ice growing on the stems of these plants. below.
In spring 2008 I planted seeds of White Crownbeard in the buckets and in other places in the yard. In late October I found my first ice.
I have continued to grow White Crownbeard in my yard and some years have had better ice than other years. Below I am kneeling beside a bed of the plants. This photo shows the relative size of the growths of ice. Note the bricks bordering the bed are 8 inches long (20 cm).
I refer to the ice that grows on plant stems as Ice Flowers and Ice Ribbons. There is no widely accepted term. One person has proposed the name Crystallofolia - meaning flowers made of crystals (of ice).
Based on correspondence with persons who have seen my pages, I know of about 40 species of plants around the world which support the growth of such ice. This occurs when the moisture in the ground is still liquid but the air temperature has fallen below freezing. Thus, it is most likely to occur in the morning on a fall day, but it may happen at other times when the conditions are right.
Hair Ice - Growing from Dead Pieces of Wood
Soon after posting my first web pages in 2004 I started to get inquiries from persons who had taken photos of ice they found and wanted an explanation of what they had seen. This is a wonderful way to find ice formations that I could never find on my own.
Below is an example of Hair Ice growing on a dead piece of wood. I have never seen this personally .
Figure 6 -- This photo by bobbi fabellano from the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, USA, distinctly shows the piece of wood without any bark on it. In the photo the hair ice seems to wrap around the piece of wood. And, it appears that the wood is not lying on the ground.
The specialist on Hair Ice is Dr. Gerhart Wagner of
Needle Ice from Soil
Recently, I observed that some of the areas in my yard crunched underfoot as I walked across the grass early on a cold morning. I looked closer and found many crystals of ice growing out of the top of the soil. Four hours later the soil had warmed and the icy areas were now mud. The next morning there were needles of ice again only to turn back to mud in a few hours.
Such ice growing from the soil is known as Needle Ice and is quite common with the right soil texture, moisture conditions and temperature conditions. Some needle ice can be quite large, but in my yard it is a rather basic. The conditions that produce Needle Ice are the same that produce Ice Flowers.
Figure 7 -- Close-up photos of a small piece of
silty soil in my yard in central Illinois. I stood a Penny up
between the needles of ice in the soil, but when the soil melted it
turned to mud and the Penny fell over. In
some cases this process is repeated day after day if the soil
remains wet and the temperatures cycle above and below
Figure 7 -- Close-up photos of a small piece of silty soil in my yard in central Illinois. I stood a Penny up between the needles of ice in the soil, but when the soil melted it turned to mud and the Penny fell over. In some cases this process is repeated day after day if the soil remains wet and the temperatures cycle above and below freezing.
Ice Growing from Pebbles
Two persons have sent me photos of ice growing from small rocks. Below are photos of ice growing from rocks in Missouri.
I had colleagues in Alabama and Missouri send me rocks on which they had seen ice grow. I put those rocks in the area of my yard that had needle ice. Indeed, those rocks did grow a little ice. It was not as dramatic as shown in their photos, but it demonstrated the process that produced needle ice also produces growths of ice on rocks.
Rather than wait for cold mornings to produce such ice, I set out to replicate the process in a refrigerator. I started with a small ice chest that would fit in a freezer compartment. I put a small light bulb in the bottom to generate heat to keep water in the soil from freezing. I then filled a plastic bucket with wet sand and placed it over my heat source - the light bulb. I then adjusted the amount of light with a rheostat and worked to find the right combination of temperatures that might grow ice on the rocks I put on the wet sand/soil. Sometimes it worked very well, as in the example below.
Growths of Ice in Birdbaths, Caps and Pans
When water freezes it expands as anyone who ever had pipes freezes knows all too well. In an ice cube tray the water freezes from all sides, including top and bottom. Look at ice cubes and you will see that most of them have a bump on the top where freezing water in the center pushed up in the only direction it could go.
Sometimes this bump becomes an Ice Spike, as in the cap of a pill bottle below. Such spikes have been seen by many people. I put many bottle caps outside in the winter and on rare occasions I get ice spikes. I also put out pans of water and examine the patterns formed at the top of the water. Below is one example. Note, how the needles of ice in the pan intersect to form triangles.
As water freezes it sometimes sends up a single jet making an ice spike. But, as shown in the photos below, sometimes a triangle of ice grows upward.
I have never seen big triangles of ice like that in Figure 11, but I have seen photos of similar ice formations from many places. Note the similarity in the patterns of the triangles in my pan with the triangle of ice in the birdbath. In most cases as the water freezes solid, the triangular needles disappear into a smoother ice surface.
What this should tell you is to look for such ice on cold mornings or evenings.
Extruding Ice from Steel Structures
In 2007 I received photos from Sheri Terris of Canada showing ice being extruded from a steel fence post. I corresponded with her and she gave me permission to use her photos. Her most impressive photo shows an overlapping ribbon of ice, reminding me of ribbon candy.
Wow, I was impressed and set out to determine how such a ribbon of ice could be made. Obviously, water got into the fence post, froze and pushed out of a slit at the top. Could I duplicate that process and extrude my own ribbons of ice?
Figure 12 -- Sheryl Terris of British Columbia,
Canada, captured photos of ice being extruded from a steel
fence. Her photo on the left shows a long ribbon
of ice that folds back on itself, like ribbon
candy. In an attempt to explain how that ice was
extruded from the fence, I experimented with steel pipes. The
middle and right photos are two examples of what I
Figure 12 -- Sheryl Terris of British Columbia, Canada, captured photos of ice being extruded from a steel fence. Her photo on the left shows a long ribbon of ice that folds back on itself, like ribbon candy. In an attempt to explain how that ice was extruded from the fence, I experimented with steel pipes. The middle and right photos are two examples of what I produced.
In addition to the ice extruded from her fence, I have received photos of spirals of ice extruded from posts of a steel stair railing in England, from a railing in northern England, from playground equipment in Moscow, Russia, and from a pipe supporting a piece of art in Hamburg, Germany.
Reflections on a World of Ice Formations
Ten years ago I knew about icicles and patches of ice on streets and walkways, and that was about it. Now when it is above freezing part of the day and below freezing part of the day I look for ice in many places, and often find it. I have learned much by observing these many forms of ice. I hope you will join me in the search for ice in its many forms.
What we do know is that this ice is not a form of frost. Frost comes about when the air becomes saturated and water vapor is deposited on a surface as an ice crystal. If the air temperatures are above freezing we get dew, but when it is below freezing moisture is deposited out of the air as frost. Figure 2 above shows that frost has been deposited on leaves and blades of grass. Certainly, in most cases the conditions that are appropriate to the growth of ice are also appropriate to the formation of frost. For this reason some of the older names for the formations of ice on plants are called frost flowers and the plants are called such names as frost weed.
More recently I have come to realize the commonality of ice segregation as the process producing ice on plant stems, pieces of dead wood, pebbles and soil.
Indeed there is beauty in the many ways frost forms on surfaces and objects. There are many sites on the web where photographers show their frost pictures.
Thank goodness for the Internet and digital cameras for they let us exchange information about these attractive ice formations. Please look for interesting ice when the freeze/thaw processes are underway. If you want to know more see my web pages at http://my.ilstu.edu/~jrcarter/ice/
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com to share your photos of ice of this nature from your early morning outings.
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