Monday, 12 January 2015

Ice Volcanoes of the Great Lakes

During the winter months, when the Great Lakes in North America freezes over, an exclusive feature often called “ice volcanoes” starts forming along the edge of the frozen lakes. When the winter ice starts to build along the shores of large lakes, strong winds blowing onshore and wave motion on the waters break up the ice, and they start piling on top of each and building what is recognized as an ice shelf. Moreover amongst the plentiful ice blocks comprising a shelf, numerous develop cracks.

Waves coming into shore from deeper water strike the edge of the ice shelf trigger off them to go under the ice and as the water depth becomes shallow, the potent energy in the wave causes it to rise up, just like a tsunami. Thus when the energetic wave finds a crack on the ice sheet, it reasons the water to sprout making an ice volcano. If the hole is covered with snow, the eruption may spray snow outward alike a volcanic gas cloud. Further a more suitable name for these sprouting water holes would have been ‘blowholes’, but ice volcanoes really grow just like their geological cousins. When the ejected water falls back onto the ice, it rapidly freezes and starts to form an ice cone, this is the process very related to the building of a lava cone surrounding a geologic volcanic vent. Thought the ice cones range in size from 3 feet to more than 30 feet high, and spew a mixture of icy cold water and chunks of ice itself.

Moreover not all ice sheets develop ice volcanoes as to build a good ice volcano cone, this has to required unique set of conditions and the surface air temperature must be some degrees below freezing and lake waves more than a few feet high and breaking onshore, which is perhaps why they’re seen at very few places such as on the shores of Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Lake Superior.

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