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Ice, Ice, Baby: Hair Ice One of Nature’s Wildest Cold Creations

Hair ice has baffled scientists for a century. Let‘s break the heat, seeing one of nature’s more beautiful and mysterious creations.

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Hair ice
Image Credit: WikiCommons

To beat the summer heat, here are some of Mother Nature’s most bizarre ice formations: Hair Ice. Full of swirls and curls, the frozen oddity’s precise formation baffled scientist for nearly a century… until now.

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What is Hair Ice?

Found from Sweden to India, hair ice – or ice wool – sports gossamer threads of frozen water organized in to macroscopically ordered tufts. The frigid fur grows from areas of loosened bark. Therefore it necessitates humid and calm conditions at a temperature slightly below freezing.

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However with all the specificity hair ice requires to grow, scientists were looking for a unifying, underlying incipient factor.

Hair iceWikiCommons

Unlocking the Mystery

In 1918 German scientist Alfred Wegener was the first to study the hair ice phenomenon de rigueur. During his observations he noted a cobweb-like coat surrounding the hair-iced wood. Furthermore, a fellow researcher identified the webbing as fungus mycelium from which mushrooms ultimately grow.  

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Consequently, Wegener speculated a relation between the concurrence of fungus mycelium and hair ice but the hypothesis lay dormant.

Hair Ice: Cracking a Century Old Cold Case

Additionally, after nearly a century, Swiss scientist Gerhart Wagner made headway on Wegener’s theory when he doused logs who grew hair ice with either fungicide or hot water. Furthermore, both eliminated their ability to grow the ice formation. 

Therefore building on this data, Dr. Diana Hofmann and Dr Gisela Preuss closely analyzed and identified the fungus common to all their samples growing hair ice: Exidiopsis effusa.

Hair iceWikiCommons

Ultimately the physics explains the rest. Dr. Christian Mätzler of the University of Bern, Switzerland, determined that a “wood–water–ice sandwich” forms on tree surfaces and pushes water through the tiny pores in the wood, thus forming the spiny ice spindles.

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A similar process causes Ice Flowers to grow overnight. In this case, the water is forced through pore in the stem of a living plant. Therefore the ice forms delicate layered folds that giving it the appearance of petals.

Write to Kristen E. Strubberg at kstrubberg@tgnreview.com

Sources: Sci-News or read the original paper abstract.  Additional information was found on these ice wonders at My World of Ice by Dr. James. R. Carter.

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Kristen E. Strubberg is the Editor-in-Chief for TGNR. Kristen founded TGNR in 2013 - seeking to create a high quality platform for original, eclectic and substantive positive news journalism by attracting expert contributors in many varying subjects. Kristen also works as a clinical medical researcher in Cardiology, with an original background in Neuroscience. Her passion for science has translated to her science-fiction specialization, with her highly adept published insights into the best of sci-fi’s popular culture. Kristen has served as TGNR’s Editor-in-Chief since 2013.

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