Categories Science

Frost Flowers, Snow Donuts, and Ice Tornadoes

Well, not exactly Ice Tornadoes, they are called Brinicles. All three of these weather phenomona have to do with ice in some way, shape, or form, so I thought it would be nifty for all of you who are interested in such things.

  1. Frost Flowers


Frost Flowers are intricate patterns of ice that emerge (usually on the surface of water-ice but have been seen on land too) that form a kind of flower shape. This happens when moist air suddenly condenses into ice and clumps together, which is why Frost Flowers can usually be seen in patches. They can grow to be 3-4 inches in diameter.

“Under these extreme circumstances ice vaporises into the dry air and then refreezes in the form of a frost flower. The pair confirmed this by recreating such conditions in the laboratory. They grew frost flowers from fresh water at 0  °C by cooling the surrounding air to around -25  °C.”

They are wonderful-looking phenomena, but sadly only happens in the arctic. This is a phenomena very similar to Hair Ice.

2. Snow Donuts


At first I thought they were fake, as they don’t look as if they could be formed without some kind of human touch. Like Crop Circles.

where do they come from? Well, know they are really brittle to the touch, and can crumble, so you can’t ride them around. Some can be icy enough to play with, however. They need extremely specific conditions to form, including sticky snow, high (but not too powerful) winds, the perfect temperatures, a downword slope, and the right amount of light.

The way it occurs is like rolling up an old carpet before tossing it out. A little bit of snow rips off due to the wind, the loose snow circles around and gets stuck on some sticky snow further down the hill. And then wind and gravity just pushes it down as it grabs more snow in the process. Not unlike those snowballs that roll downhill and get larger in cartoons or video games.

3. Brinicles (Ice Tornadoes)

Brinicles form when supercold Brine (a salt solution higher than 5%) becomes dense due to the temperature and composition and start to sink the the bottom of the seafloor. Because the supercold brine is colder than freezing point, the water around it freezes as it drops.

Once this pillar touches the ocean floor, it quickly coats the bottom of the seafloor to ice, killing everything in its path. It’s easier to see than explain:

You can also learn much more about this awesome but deadly ice formation on the excellent channel on YouTube: SciShow.