Ice Pattern on Six Mile Creek in Ithaca, New York

March 02, 2020


Photographer: Jim Deutch
Summary Author: Jim Deutch 

Shown above is a complex ice pattern ice on Six Mile Creek, near my home in Utica, New York, as observed in late January 2020. Along the edge of a stream, when the temperature is below freezing and the water level has been falling slowly, needles of ice form over the surface. Soon, the entire surface freezes over, but the ice is slightly thicker where the first needles formed. No longer able to grow along the surface, the ice needles continue to grow downwards instead, perhaps because they extend down into slightly colder water. So what started out as linear needles, now extends down as a planar sheet. These sheets grow at all angles. If the water level drops at almost the same rate that the sheets grow, voids are left remaining between the sheets, forming a three-dimensional lattice of crazy-angled sheets of ice, all interlocking together.

It's even difficult to tell what you’re looking at when you can break off a chunk and examine it in your hand. The photo above (magnified several times) just barely reveals the ice’s actual depth and intricacy.