The strange life of ice.

I’ve been collecting the occasional photo of the odd things water, ice and snow do around here on different days.  On the hottest days (night time temps above zero) the melt doesn’t stop.  Most times, though, the water freezes in strange ways overnight, only to resume melting as the day time temperature rises.  This is just a short post to show some of the phenomena that appear around the station from day to day.

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This is the typical daily scene around the station.  In place of snow and wind, we have sun and mud.  The weather here is atypically warm thanks to the protection of the Vestfold Hills, and so the melt is considerable each year.  Last winter was an especially heavy snow season, so the melt is even greater.  Rushing water can be heard under the snow and ice over near our directional HF antennas (which I’ll show you in a post some time).

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This is the sort of snow and ice we had left around the station as the melt started to reach its peak.  This is all melted out now, but this photo shows plenty of dirt and visible walkway.  When we first arrived, the whole station was covered in a blanket of white.  The only remaining parts are those shaded during the 24-hour daylight.

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My favourite part of it all is the daily melt and refreeze cycle.  As you can see above, overnight temperatures low enough to refreeze the water give us quite a sight in the morning.  Every stream and puddle freezes in a new pattern each day, and when the sky is clear the sunlight dances off the shapes in a rather amazing way.  Perhaps the most impressive of all is the way that the water first starts to melt in the morning:

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It’s a bit hard to see when it’s not moving, and I’ve processed this photo quite heavily to try and make it clear.  I’ll explain what I’m trying to show in this photo:

Overnight the ice freezes.  In the morning as the sunlight starts to become a match for the sub-zero temperatures, the sunlight penetrates the clear ice and begins to heat the brown dirt underneath.  The dirt heaps up the water underneath the ice, and the water begins to flow underneath a solid veneer of ice.

What you’re seeing in the above photo is about three millimetres of solid ice with water and air bubbles flowing down hill underneath the ice.  It’s quite impressive to watch, and makes its own peculiar sound too.

I’m quite looking forward to seeing the many quirks of this place icing up again when winter eventually returns.  I’ll be sure to share what I find.

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