Unique Ice Spikes Form In Wednesday’s Frigid Air

The Weather Authority
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We’ve seen a few instances of ice spikes forming this year, but a particularly unique formation was caught Wednesday morning! The “ice spike” below formed in Richard Congo’s bird bath this morning:

Usually we see ice spikes that are shaped, well, like spikes. A great example of a ‘standard’ looking ice spike came to us from Lisa Letson back in January:

Photo: Lisa Letson

The ‘spike’ shape is the most common, but they have been known to form vase-like shapes, candle shapes, and inverted pyramid shapes.

Ice spikes often form in bird baths like those above because the shape of the bath favors their formation. The following partial explanation and diagram are taken from “Ice Spike Formation Induced by Dendritic Ice Sheets” by Miles Chen:

Excerpt from http://www.physics.utoronto.ca/~smorris/edl/icespikes/Chen_icespikes_report.pdf
Excerpt from http://www.physics.utoronto.ca/~smorris/edl/icespikes/Chen_icespikes_report.pdf

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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