On Christmas Morning, 2013, we went outside to take some pictures and found these ice formations coming out of a pile of red clay in our yard. They almost look like a type of mushroom or fungi growing out of the dirt, but I assure you they are ice!
What do you think they are? Click on the pictures to enlarge them.
It got down to 18F last night, and it rained heavily about 5 days ago. The dirt pile has been there for about 6 months, but had been recently dug in with the tractor.
All of the ice pillars or ice strands, if you will, were growing on the Northern side of this small dirt pile.
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*Since writing this article, the best suggestion I have had is for a phenomenon known as “Needle Ice” or “Ice Needles”, which is similar to “Frost Flowers”, but comes out of soil, not off of plant material. Thanks for all who suggested the possibilities.
Apparently “Needle Ice” forms when the air is below freezing and the soil is above freezing. Due to a capillary action that occurs, the water is drawn out to form these frozen needles, columns, spires, or pillars.
Since the only place that this happened was in an area of a pile of red clay that had been previously disturbed, it seems only logical that that had something to do with it as well.
However, it is possible that the phenomena was occurring in other areas and that the only reason we found it here was because this was a Northern slope of the dirt pile and due to the shade the ice had not yet melted.
It stands to reason that these small little needles of ice would be very susceptible to temperature change and would melt very quickly, which we saw happen right before our eyes.
You can even make out a few drops of water on some of the pictures – evidence that the ice was melting as I was shooting.
Now that we know it can happen, we we certainly be looking for it again!