Category Archives: ice phenomena

Hair Ice

Hair ice (in German Haareis) is formed at dead wood by conditions of high humidity and temperatures near freezing point. Water in the pores expands below 4°C and freezes on the surface. In this way fine ice needles were created. (123)

I found it in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in southern Germany.

Author: Helga Schöps, Germany

Colours inside a cracked piece of ice

After some very cold days in Heréd (Northern Hungary) Karoly Viczian went out to the garden to break the ice in a rainwater collecting barrel. On a small piece of ice he cut out from the barrel he could see some very vivid colours – it reminds me to the diffraction colours of an opal gemstone. So maybe the coloures were produced by some microscopic bubbles inside the ice just the same way as they form in the gemstone that has small spherical structure . But Károly said he had noticed the colours after breaking up the ice, so it seems that the small cracks inside might have produced them with the help of birefringence.

As Károly told me the ice was the outcome of multiple freezing and melting periods, so it might also have separate layers inside. He has more pictures of the same piece of ice. The water was simple rainwater, only some fallen walnut leaves were at the bottom of the barrel, nothing was put in it willingly.
What is the correct explanation of this phenomena?

Posted by Noli

Shadows on ice crystals

During the cold spell in the middle of January, some of us in Hungary started “experimenting” with snow crystals. As surface halos had been observed for several consecutive days (see the images of the odd radius surface halos by Ákos Ujj: 1 – 2 ), our basic idea was to find out whether we would see the trace of the 22 degree halo if we simply threw up the snow crystals covering the ground. Interestingly, the answer was yes. It was really exciting to observe that 22° from the sun, the crystals were glittering in spectral colours, and they faintly drew the form of the halo. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky with photographing the effect. All I could capture was the streetlamp casting its shadow on the crystals thrown and kicked in the air by Alexandra Farkas.

In the evening, however, Károly Vicián was much more successful. He had similar methods, but with longer exposure time, he did not only manage to photograph the shadow of the broom that was used to cover the spotlight, but the halo thus forming, too.

Posted by Ágnes Kiricsi

Frost Optics

2008/02/10 Taken in Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA at temperature of -10 F. I looked out to see the sunrise refracting through frost crystals on our back window. The entire pane sparkled with these delicate, miniature creations, but only a few of them were postitioned so that I could see the entire color spectrum at once.

Author:  Peg Zenko, Wisconsin, USA

Diamond-dust Sundog

This very bright “localized” sundog was formed in ice fog among trees along the Bow River in Calgary on a very cold winter day recently. The remarkable feature of this sundog is that trees are profiled against it. The equivalent sundog on the opposite side of the Sun was almost as bright. These sundogs varied in brightness as ice-fog density varied. Individual ice crystals show up as transient bright points.

Author: Alan Clark, Canada

Icy window corona

At the beginning of this winter season at a cold morning – dark outside – with a thin layer of hoarfrost on the inner side of the bus windows I’ve noticed that the light of the street lamps’ light was not simply scattered on the windows, but having colorful corona around them. At that time I had no camera with me… All along the winter I was waiting for the same display each morning when some ice was on the bus windows, but for long weeks I haven’t met with such spectacular phenomena again.This day was my day on 24th January. Very thin layer of frost was on the inner part of the windows, (with some frost ferns too by the corner of the window frame), mainly this layer was made of small uniform ice crystals made of frozen vapor droplets, we might call it an ice film, it was about 0,1 mm thin.All the lamps outside had a corona, no matter how far the lamp was.The street lamps with white light had the most beautiful color range, the orange colored light of sodium vapor lamps had a less distinct colors and they were a bit moved towards the reds. Not only the street lamps’ corona was seen on the ice layer, but a much less spectacular corona around the reflection of the inner lamps of the bus too! At the part of the frost ferns pattern the corona became irregular in shape. When the lamp was near the window I could also see the bigger outer rings of the corona. Almost the same phenomena appears when simple water vapour is on the windows, but that one is really less poor in colors compared to the ice film corona.This was the first time when I could take photos of a corona produced by ice crystals. It’s a pity, I could not take close-up photo of the ice layer itself (the bus was driving me to work so it was permanently moving).

Photos are collected here: The only afterwork was some noise reduction and size reduction. It was totally dark outside, so the pics were taken with ISO200 – ISO400; aperture F4 – F5,6; exp. 1/15 – 1/25 sec. auto white balance; without tripod or any kind of help to avoid moving.I wonder if the same phenomena would appear if the outer side of the windows would have a layer of hoarfrost on it. It’s only weather’s turn to show it up!

Author: Monika Landy-Gyebnar, Veszprem, Hungary

“Subsun” upon ice crystal

While taking the photographs of the iridescent fissures in the ice, I noticed some beautiful ice crystal structures on one of the puddles. When I looked at them more closely, I saw intensive reflections of the sun in them. Animated by the hoar-frost halo I discovered before, I got the idea to photograph the reflection of the sun as a kind of “subsun”. To get the reflection completely into the picture, it was necessary to make a macro of the ice crystal. However, the crystal turned out ot be a lot more complex than I thought.

The reflection of the sun, however, was not a homogenuous surface, but appeared to be a slightly oval shaped, speckled white spot with a broad golden and also speckled rim. It is exactly this reddish-golden rim that gives me quite a headache, reminding me a lot of the reddish coloured fringes which sometimes can be seen at other haloes like parhelic circle or 120°-sundogs. The sequence of colours and the outward manifestation is that of a common aureole. However, in this picture it looks as if the colour came out of the inside of the ice crystals. Especially take a close look at the crystals marked with arrows.

About one week later at another frozen puddle, the reflection of the sun again had a reddish rim. But here the situation is quite different. This time it is a fragment of the frozen water surface. The wind has carried dust upon the ice which with the help of the sun had smolten innumerable tiny holes into the surface which originally had been smooth. Low temperatures then had made it freeze again. All in all, these processes have caused a rather permeable surface structure to develop, so the reflection of the sun is more like a diffraction. Especially in its upper part, there is an indication of iridescence. Who knows, on day somebody might succeed in taking photographs of “ice surface coronae”!

Last but not least: Of course you can also try to take a fragment of ice off a puddle and make some experiments with it. Maybe there will be confirmations of these sightings pointing also out to the possibility of a (additional) light refraction in the red rim.

Author: Reinhard Nitze, Barsinghausen, Germany

Colours on fissures in ice

In the late afternoon of December 15, 2007, temperatures began to stay below freezing 24 hours a day for the first time (!) in this year. Already the next morning, many of the small puddles on a lane near our town Barsinghausen were covered with ice. Children enjoyed breaking these crusts of ice with their feet. But at some of the puddles which had frozen down to the ground, they had no success and just caused some fissures in the ice. These fissures showed extremely intense colours.

The colours are probably caused by interference. Light enters the ice and is reflected to and fro between the edges of the fissures. So there are differences in the time the light needs to cover the distance between the ice and the eye of the observer. This causes light waves to amplify or extinguish each other. This is what we perceive as colours.

There is no direct sunlight necessary for this effect (1 2), but it can increase it enormeously (3 4).

Author: Reinhard Nitze, Barsinghausen, Germany