Posted by: picnicmelt | May 20, 2009

phenom: spinning ice discs

I’m going to have to research these some more – so beautiful! Has anyone reading this ever come across a rotating ice circle, or spinning ice disc? Or know of a scientific name for it?

The ice circle, less than 1/2-inch thick, apparently rotates slowly & steadily

This ice circle, less than 1/2-inch thick, apparently rotates slowly & steadily (seen near Devon, Jan 09)

Spinning ice discs are rare geometric beauties that seem to form when a river eddy catches a pan of frazil (ice needles just cold enough to stick to each other) and swirls it until it forms a perfect circle. The unfrozen eddy underneath has no reason to stop rotating, of course, so the ice circle spins as well. I’m guessing the phenom would occur within a tiny window of temperature fluctuation, since colder water would freeze solid and warmer water would not allow the frazil to cluster. Hmm. (Information about the circle near Devon available here.)

Same Jan 09 ice circle observed near Devon, UK

Same Jan 09 ice circle observed near Devon, UK

Not everyone agrees that the discs form naturally (are they the work of UFOs looking for something post-crop-circle craze? UFO Roundup  and other alien-interested sites think so).  The spinning circles are unusual, but not unheard of in northern countries for centuries. Here’s a shot from a Russian set of spinning ice circles. 

Ice circles galore, Russia, winter 2008 (not much info on this one)

Ice circles galore, Russia, winter 2008 (sorry, not much info on this one)

However they’re formed, this photo of a spinning ice circle near Mississauga caused a lot of excitement in Dec. 08

 

Brook Tyler's Mississauga "creek circle" from Dec 08

Brook Tyler's Mississauga "creek circle" from Dec 08

Photographer Brook Tyler called the phenomenon a “creek circle” and, according to the Windsor Star, described it “as a perfectly round circle with about two inches of slush and water around the sides, and it was spinning.” Once the photos hit Digg, it got more than 150,000 views.

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