It has been a while since we talked to you about Needle Ice, a fun natural phenomena where ice grows up from the soil in a capillary action, creating unique pillars of ice that look like dozens or hundreds of individual needles. The conditions have to be just right for needle ice to form, but when it does it isn’t only a curiosity for adults but a great learning tool for homeschooled children as well.
This year we saw something new. Needle ice caused some tracks going through a clay area of our property to rise up, giving them a more defined and deep appearance. Of particular note was a partial raccoon track, which really emphasized the claws of the animal. There were some cat and dog tracks as well, but this fella really popped.
The science behind this involves a reaction between the temperature difference between the soil and the air. So, break out the science time for your homeschooling, bundle up and head outside to show the kids what can happen.
You see, when the soil ISN’T frozen, so above 32F or 0C, but the air IS below freezing, the moisture in the soil is drawn up to the surface via a capillary action. Upon reaching the freezing air the water turns to ice. Similar to water dripping down an icicle and making it longer over time this capillary action keeps drawing water up and making this ice needle taller and taller.
This isn’t a phenomena that gets a lot of attention, but when we last spoke about it we were contacted by a production company working on a “weird nature” type of show who were considering using our material. In the end, they did not (apparently there are even more unusual things happening out there in nature), but it does go to show that not everyone gets to see this unique happening.
We were, however, able to contribute a picture to the Wikipedia article on Needle Ice, which you can read here.
What other unusual things to you get to see in your area that perhaps isn’t so common place for other people?
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