For the fourth time this winter season, more than two-dozen ice volcanoes sprung up along Lake Erie's shoreline. Ice volcano, also known as cryovolcano, is an interesting natural phenomenon which forms along the shoreline under certain conditions. Its size can range from 60 cm to 9 m (2 to 30 feet).
Although ice volcanoes are usually an annual phenomenon in the Great Lakes, Dave McCoy, an environmental educator at Evangola State Park, said this year they are special. "I've never seen them form in March. What’s more, these ice volcanoes are the fourth-generation of the 2016-17 winter season, which is also unusual," he said.
The ingredients were there at Evangola this week: unseasonably frigid air, gusty winds, ice fastened to the shore and open, 33-degree F (0.5 °C) Lake Erie waters, McCoy told The Buffalo News.
“You have craters, huge cracks in the ice,” McCoy said. “It’s like another world. It’s like another planet.”
This week, ice volcanoes have been reported along the lake shores of both Lake Erie and Ontario.
The video below shows ice volcanoes on the shores of Lake Ontario at the end of January 2017:
Video courtesy The Weather Network
When it gets cold enough, ice starts building up along the shoreline as an ice shelf. If the temperature, wind direction and wave height is right, the gentling sloping limestone just offshore funnels waves under the ice shelf and up through it at a weak point. This results in a blowhole type phenomenon, with icy water spewing up into the air through the ice.
The water falls back down and freezes, eventually building up a cone through which the water continues to erupt, Ontario Parks explained.
Ice volcanoes on Lake Erie - January 2016. Video courtesy Wide World of Trains
Featured image: Ice volcanoes along the shores of Lake Erie - March 2017. Credit: News 4 WIVB Buffalo