Local News

ICE ICE BABY: Watch (and listen) to Lake Ontario ice melting away

todayJanuary 25, 2024 1

share close

The basic science is simple. Most every winter, it gets cold. Lake Ontario waters get colder and colder, eventually allowing for a stretch near the immediate lakeshore to ice over. Some years, that ice is temporary and limited. Other years, it can extend as far as the eye can see and last for many weeks or months at a time. But exactly HOW the lake goes about freezing & melting is actually a fascinating tapdance that can generate beautiful ice formations.

The video above was taken Wednesday with temperature into the 40s. A solid week and a half stretch of sub-freezing temperatures allowed the shoreline of the lake to ice over, extending out several hundred yards at peak. It was a slow process to get that ice shelf going, often following a familiar sequence of steps. Here’s how things played out over the last 10 days.

It finally got cold. Lake Ontario water temperatures, which had still been running in the 40s, were allowed to drop.

After a few days of subfreezing temperatures, balls of ice start forming in the distance. They’re really neat to see, baseball to softball sized chunks of ice bobbing and rolling around. The rolling action smooths any jagged edges, making them nice and round. These ice balls start piling up downwind wherever waves take them, accumulating around the lakeshore.

Pancake ice starts to form, resembling flapjacks with raised edges from colliding with one another. When winds & waves are strong, these are forced ashore and pile up. When conditions calm down (and it remains cold), this mix of ice chunks starts to solidify. Additional waves from there add layers of ice, coating the chunks and any rocks/objects along the lakeshore. This process continues as the newly formed ice shelf grows deeper and extends farther out into the water.

Eventually, enough of the water has frozen over and wave action stops building additional ice. Because the process of getting to this stage features an accumulation of multiple layers & types of ice, it is seldom a smooth surface. Rather, it’s a cratered mass that can often features rolling hills & undulations. At this point, you’re pretty much stuck with what you see until warmth comes back and begins eating away at the ice.

That’s the mode we’ve been in this week. All that ice buildup doesn’t just melt away in an instant. It gets chiseled, now eroded by the force of those same waves which gradually break off chunks of ice that float around and melt. Channels often form within the remaining ice shelf where currents of water and waves are funneled into narrow corridors, splashing at the end.

Sometimes, these currents can form a tunnel under the ice and generate “ice volcanoes” where water spews from the top. While all can melt within a few days if conditions allow, the process of getting to that end game are often quite beautiful with unique ice formations building and decaying. The sound is also unique, a combination of waves and the gentle bobbing & grinding of ice chunks against each other. This process of building and decay can evolve rapidly between day and night and as weather patterns shift.

We’ve had a relatively warm winter thus far. Lake ice has been sparse & will likely remain so over the next week or two with milder conditions expected. There’s still a lot of winter yet to go, however. Give it time, you’ll be able to see it again for yourself!

​ The basic science is simple. Most every winter, it gets cold. Lake Ontario waters get colder and colder, eventually allowing for a stretch near the immediate lakeshore to ice over. Some years, that ice is temporary and limited. Other years, it can extend as far as the eye can see and last for many weeks or months at a time. But exactly HOW the lake goes about freezing & melting is actually a fascinating tapdance that can generate beautiful ice formations.

The video above was taken Wednesday with temperature into the 40s. A solid week and a half stretch of sub-freezing temperatures allowed the shoreline of the lake to ice over, extending out several hundred yards at peak. It was a slow process to get that ice shelf going, often following a familiar sequence of steps. Here’s how things played out over the last 10 days.

It finally got cold. Lake Ontario water temperatures, which had still been running in the 40s, were allowed to drop.

After a few days of subfreezing temperatures, balls of ice start forming in the distance. They’re really neat to see, baseball to softball sized chunks of ice bobbing and rolling around. The rolling action smooths any jagged edges, making them nice and round. These ice balls start piling up downwind wherever waves take them, accumulating around the lakeshore.

Pancake ice starts to form, resembling flapjacks with raised edges from colliding with one another. When winds & waves are strong, these are forced ashore and pile up. When conditions calm down (and it remains cold), this mix of ice chunks starts to solidify. Additional waves from there add layers of ice, coating the chunks and any rocks/objects along the lakeshore. This process continues as the newly formed ice shelf grows deeper and extends farther out into the water.

Eventually, enough of the water has frozen over and wave action stops building additional ice. Because the process of getting to this stage features an accumulation of multiple layers & types of ice, it is seldom a smooth surface. Rather, it’s a cratered mass that can often features rolling hills & undulations. At this point, you’re pretty much stuck with what you see until warmth comes back and begins eating away at the ice.

That’s the mode we’ve been in this week. All that ice buildup doesn’t just melt away in an instant. It gets chiseled, now eroded by the force of those same waves which gradually break off chunks of ice that float around and melt. Channels often form within the remaining ice shelf where currents of water and waves are funneled into narrow corridors, splashing at the end.

Sometimes, these currents can form a tunnel under the ice and generate “ice volcanoes” where water spews from the top. While all can melt within a few days if conditions allow, the process of getting to that end game are often quite beautiful with unique ice formations building and decaying. The sound is also unique, a combination of waves and the gentle bobbing & grinding of ice chunks against each other. This process of building and decay can evolve rapidly between day and night and as weather patterns shift.

We’ve had a relatively warm winter thus far. Lake ice has been sparse & will likely remain so over the next week or two with milder conditions expected. There’s still a lot of winter yet to go, however. Give it time, you’ll be able to see it again for yourself! Read More WeatherRochesterFirst  

Written by:

Rate it

Previous post

Sunrise Smart Start: Pines of Perinton, Pittsford native’s vigil

Local News

Sunrise Smart Start: Pines of Perinton, Pittsford native’s vigil

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Stay up to date on the latest headlines in today's Sunrise Smart Start for Thursday, January 25, 2024. Funeral service and candlelight vigil planned to celebrate Ryan Realbuto Community asked to help local basketball coach after house fire Rochester mother sentenced to 10 years for selling fentanyl Pines of Perinton residents demand action at town board meeting Family of Brian Sullivan continues to seek closure after […]

todayJanuary 25, 2024 1

Post comments (0)

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Generated by Feedzy
0%