Ice Hydrology

March 31, 2004


Provided by: Chris Davis; Roger Stern
Summary authors & editors: Roger Stern

The above photo was taken in mid February near Dover, Massachusetts. An eight-month wet spell came to an abrupt end in early January when extremely cold and dry weather gripped New England. January 2004 was the coldest month in eastern Massachusetts since 1895!

The sheet of river ice pictured here first formed in mid-January and continued to thicken. Thereafter, the water level in this small watershed fell rapidly, and the ice soon sheared away from the river bank, as the water that had supported it receded. The high-ice mark is visible as a vestige on the pylon and also on the abutment. More or less identical shearing was visible for many miles up and downstream, suggesting the possibility that a collapse may have occurred in a single wave!

After the ice collapsed, the river fell slowly in the ensuing dry weather, allowing ice at the river edge to flow downwards instead of break. This formed the series of sinuous river-edge terraces that cascade into the foreground. Below the pylon are white bulbous forms in the ice, aggregations of tiny bubbles that floated up as the ice flowed down. The vertical distance between high and low ice was about 30 in (75 cm).

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