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Ice Spike: what are these things that form on very cold mornings?

It was so cold Tuesday morning that even the ice was trying to escape!  Rhonda Hall took these photos of one of the most pronounced ‘ice spikes’ I’ve ever seen.  It looks like a shark’s dorsal fin!  This formed in Rhonda’s backyard fire pit.

Spikes like this are caused by upward-freezing water.  The following partial explanation and diagram are taken from “Ice Spike Formation Induced by Dendritic Ice Sheets” by Miles Chen:

In other words, ice crystals don’t create a smooth, solid block; there are cracks and crevices that allow water from below to seep upward.  That makes it possible for more water to move upward and freeze as it rises above the rest of the ice.  These things are just as common with ice trays in freezers as they are in backyard birdbaths in cold weather!

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