Ice Volcanoes

Ice Volcanoes


Bizarre ice volcanoes spewed great plumes of water on the shores of Lake Michigan, U.S.


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During a stroll on Oval Beach on the lake's eastern shore, located in the state of Michigan, an employee of the NWS Grand Rapids snapped a few photos of water bursting from mounds in the frigid ground.

Despite their nickname, ice volcanoes aren't really volcanoes at all. The cone-like mounds form at the edges of lakes, where thin sheets of ice form, and water shoots through holes in the ice, Tom Niziol, a contributor for Weather Underground's Category 6 blog, explained in a post. Water sloshes beneath the ice sheet and builds up enough pressure to force spurts of water to the surface. If the air above is cold enough, the released water freezes over the surrounding ground, forming a mini volcano of sorts.

"Ice volcanoes can be very dangerous to climb on however because they are hollow and built over that hole in the ice," Niziol said. "Don't ever go venturing out onto them." Frozen volcanoes formed along the shores of Lake Erie a few years ago, Niziol added. Although not unheard of, ice volcanoes remain a relatively rare phenomenon.

"It’s almost a 'Goldilocks' situation where you need just the right conditions over a while to get these formations to develop," Matt Benz, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, said in a news report. Ice volcanoes typically form near large bodies of water where below-freezing temperatures allow an ice shelf to form over the water's surface along the coastline, he said. Simultaneously, waves beneath the shelf must be powerful enough to crack the ice and push water out. For this reason, ice volcanoes tend to form along shorelines where winds churn up waves consistently, Benz said.


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