Pancake Ice

Pancake Ice by Julie

Pancake Ice by Julie

This is one of the best shots I’ve seen showing how the structure of pancake ice is basically “round iceberg”. The Weather Channel explains the science behind pancake ice:

The circular slabs you see can range anywhere from one to 10 feet in diameter and up to four inches thick, typically forming in areas with at least some wave action and air temperatures just below freezing.

Pancake ice can begin as a thin ice layer (known as grease ice) or slush on the water surface, which accumulates into quasi-circular disks. The “lily pad,” or raised-edge appearance of pancake ice, can form when each disk bumps up against one another, or when slush splashes onto and then freezes on the slab’s edge.

Julie caught this picture last week in Charlevoix’s channel to Lake Michigan. See more in her Coronavirus Times 2021 gallery on Flickr.

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3 thoughts on “Pancake Ice

    1. Good Question. The Smithsonian says:

      …ice circles occur when moving water forces ice to slowly rotate. “What’s happening here is shear—when on one side of the ice you have water that’s moving faster than on the other side causing the ice to rotate,” Jackson says. “The result is an eddy current, like a whirlpool.” The meteorologist explains that there are two ways for ice circles to form. The first happens when there’s ice in a stationary area but a change in water speed due to a topographic force, such as a bend in a river, causes the ice to rotate until it forms the shape of a circle. The other instance occurs when a hunk of ice breaks off of an ice sheet that’s located in a rotation zone. “The water surrounding it will cause it to rotate, naturally forming into a circle as any pointy edges start to grind down as they brush against the surrounding ice,” he says.

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