How do ice pancakes form? See the photos from Lake Michigan


Ice pancakes have formed on Lake Michigan on the shoreline of Chicago.

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Stunning ice formations named after a breakfast favorite are forming on Lake Michigan, providing amazing visuals recently at the body of water along the Chicago shoreline.

But what are ice pancakes and how are they formed? Here’s what to know about the cold-weather phenomenon.

Ranging anywhere from one to 10 feet in diameter, ice pancakes begin as a thin ice layer on the surface of the water before accumulating into circular disks, according to The Weather Channel.

If the body of water has a rough current, loose ice crystals will form into the pancake-like formation, the National Snow & Ice Data Center said. Pancake ice often feature “raised edges or ridges on the perimeter,” which occur when the “pancakes” bump into each other.

“Pancake ice is really interesting because it needs a specific temperature to form it. It usually forms just right below freezing, and in areas that have a little bit of wave action,” Andrea Vander Woude, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, told Block Club Chicago.

She described them as “tiny little floating icebergs” that usually move quickly.

Ice pancakes are most common in cold oceans, National Geographic reported, but they can be formed anywhere with the perfect conditions.

It’s not quite the same as regular ice, however. Ted Scambos, a lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center says it’s “more like a slush,” according to National Geographic.

Mike Stunson covers real-time news for McClatchy. He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter and the Lexington Herald-Leader as a breaking news reporter.
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