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Needle Ice

December 19, 2012 by  

Needle Ice, Needle ice is a phenomenon that occurs when the temperature of the soil is above 0 °C (32 °F) and the surface temperature of the air is below 0 °C (32 °F). The subterranean liquid water is brought to the surface via capillary action, where it freezes and contributes to a growing needle-like ice column.

The ice needles are typically a few centimetres long. While growing, they may lift or push away small soil particles. On sloped surfaces, needle ice may be a factor contributing to soil creep.

Alternate names for needle ice are “frost pillars” (“S?uleneis” in German), “frost column”, “Kammeis” (a German term meaning “comb ice”), “St?ngeleis” (another German term referring to the stem-like structures), “shimo bashira” (霜??± the Japanese term for “ice needles”), or “pipkrake” (from Swedish pipa (tube) and krake (weak, fine), coined in 1907 by Henrik Hesselman).

A similar phenomenon, “frost flowers”, can occur on living or dead plants, especially on wood.

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