Debunked: Ice Boulders on Great Lakes Caused by Geoengineering [Natural but Rare Ball Ice]

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Unusual "Ice Boulders" on Lake Michigan are being promoted by some as evidence of a secret "geoengineering" program, when actually they are a natural phenomena that simply does not happen every winter because it needs certain combinations of weather conditions.





http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/09/lake-michigan-ice-balls-video_n_4570097.html

The balls form when chunks break off the massive ice sheets that coat parts of the lake in the winter, Annie Lipscomb, a park ranger at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, explained to MLive. They gain their shape as waves in the lake ceaselessly toss them about, slowly rolling them into spheres.

Depending on the temperature, some of the ice balls may keep growing. According toAccuWeather.com meteorologist Jim Andrews, the balls can build up more and more ice "like a snowball or like a hailstone." Layers of water coat the ball then freeze.

A similar marvel occurred last winter in Lake Michigan's Good Harbor Bay, prompting officials to comment on the impressive size of the ice balls, some of which weighed more than 50 pounds.

"It's not that it never happens and this is a once in a decade thing," Tom Ulrich, the deputy superintendent from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, told UpNorthLive at the time, "it happens more often than that, but these are very large and got bigger than they normally get."
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And here's a historical account from the 1966 book Air photo interpretation of Great Lakes ice features:



https://archive.org/details/4736697.0001.001.umich.edu
BALL ICE FORMATION Ball ice consists of roughly spherical masses of slush and frazil ice which accrete in turbulent water. Loewe (1949) reported ball ice 3-5 cm in diameter in the sub-Antarctic waters of the South Atlantic and ascribed its origin to the accretion of slush and frazil ice. Ball ice in the Great Lakes was observed by the writer in a nearshore zone of Lake Huron in the Rogers City area, Michigan. The ball ice formation was observed during a time of intense, local snow squalls which left patches of slush on the water surface. This ball ice was composed principally of slush which was shaped by the turbulent water conditions offshore from the cliffed icefoot into lumps and balls up to 1 meter in diameter (see Fig. 19). The lumps that formed in the less turbulent zones, a few tens of meters offshore, were flattened discs, while those that entered the extremely turbulent zone near the ice foot accreted into spheres. Water turbulence at the foot of the icefoot stirred sand into suspension causing lumps entering this zone to accrete concentric bands of sand and slush (see Fig. 20). As a result of intense wave action these balls were thrown onto the icefoot where they froze and added sand and ice to the barrier. In other cases the ball ice was carried by winds and currents into coves where it collected to form a uniquely structured ice sheet (see Fig. 21). This drift of the ball ice serves to redeposit sand both along the shore and in deep-water sites. Ball ice has been observed in other areas of the Great Lakes. During ice reconnaissance flights over Lake Superior in early January, the writer observed wide zones of this type of ice along the shoreline west of the Keweenaw Peninsula and along the Marquette shoreline. In these areas rough lumps up to 2 meters in diameter were frequently observed. Extensive fields of loose ball ice were observed in the western basin of Lake Erie, while later in the season similar fields were observed frozen in a matrix of clear ice (Fig. 22). Ball ice has also been frequently observed along the Lake Ontario shoreline east of Oswego, N. Y. (A. G. Ballert, Personal communication). *Director of Research, Great Lakes Commission, Ann Arbor, Mich., 1965. 22
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Yet some alternative theorists suggest they are so unusual they must be evidence of a secret program of geoengineering:
http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org/climate-engineering-fuels-devastating-hail-storms/
[bunk]
Are there other recent examples of unprecedented “ice balls” created by massive artificial/chemical spraying of nucleating elements?

Yes again.

Ice boulders on the Great Lakes never before seen until the last few years. Do you believe the explanations given for all the unprecedented oddities by the mainstream media “experts” who are literally paid to say whatever their told to say?[/bunk]

But as we above, the claim "never before seen until the last few years" is just flat wrong. In fact there's a 1966 book with multiple reports going back to the 1940s. So how did this misconception arise?

The problem with rare phenomena is that they don't happen very often.

Since they happen so infrequently, people often encounter them as new things. This becomes a particular problem in the early decades of the internet age (i.e. now, and for the next few decades). Because of the huge proliferation of phones that take photos and record videos, and the easy transmission of these over the internet, then there every-ten-years-or-so rare events which might just a mention in the local news (if that - as they are not so interesting to locals) become a national story, because it's unusual and interesting.

Ball Ice has of course happened before, as shown above, and it's even happened in even in the internet age. Here's one story from 2002:
http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/whys/iceballs.htm


If wind and wave are high, these chunks are quickly pushed back onshore forming an "ice foot" from the beach into the water. But, if the waves are small and wind light, some chunks move out into the lake. These floating chunks then become rounded into balls through their jostling in the waves. The iceballs then can migrate along the longshore until they melt or are again tossed back onshore.
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Here's a more recent example from Sweden in 2010:
http://www.thelocal.se/20100105/24210

Once formed, the balls likely came back to shore and, rather than floating out to open water, remained there due to a change in sea conditions in the days before the ice balls were discovered. Water levels sank several decimetres between December 17th and December 18th when Bladh and his colleagues found the ice balls lying on the shore.

Beside's Bladh's discovery, SMHI's website only mentions two other reported instances of ice balls being discovered in Sweden since the 1950s.
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Note again how even more rare this is in Sweden. Three since the 1950s means about one every 20 years. Plenty of time for them to seem like a new thing.

Here's an account from the 1999 book "Huron: The Seasons of a Great Lake"
http://books.google.com/books?id=8HQoq7R0nWQC&lpg=PA47&dq=frazil ice balls&pg=PA48#v=onepage&q=frazil ice balls&f=false

 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Is that curling caused by the same types of forces that cause the pancakes Mick?

No, the pancakes have raised edges from loose sheets of slush bumping into each other.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancake_ice
Pancake ice features elevated rims formed by piling the frazil ice/slush/etc. up the edges of pancakes when they collide, both due to random bumping into each other and because of periodic compressions at wave troughs.
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The curling in rabbit ice is probably from a combination of wind and gravity.
 

Svartbjørn

Senior Member.
Ahh ok, I see.. its the difference between wind action on the crystals while they're forming, and the action of the waves on sheets already formed... makes sense now that youve said that.
 

Aeribous

New Member
I lived in Chicago my whole life and though ice balls don't happen often they do happen often enough. When I saw the pic on the home page I knew exactly what they were. This reminds me of people who say the polar vortex term didn't exist before this last winter. I always ask them if they remember the real cold winter of 94-95 because tom skilling(local meteorologist) who loves to explain weather phenomenon was talking everyday about the polar vortex during that extra cold winter.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
This reminds me of people who say the polar vortex term didn't exist before this last winter. I always ask them if they remember the real cold winter of 94-95 because tom skilling(local meteorologist) who loves to explain weather phenomenon was talking everyday about the polar vortex during that extra cold winter.

The polar vortex term seems to only date back to the 1950s, possibly starting with this 1959 paper:
http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/1520-0469(1960)017<0036:TDCOTA>2.0.CO;2
The annual cycle of disturbed circulation in the arctic stratosphere (i.e., areas north of the main jet-core of the Ferrel westerlies) is discussed in the light of climatological and synoptic evidence. In summer, the Ferrel westerlies and their wave-trains choke off with height to a zero-level near 50 mb. Because of the warmth of the arctic stratosphere, easterly anticyclonic flow is continuous at higher levels. In August, cooling begins, and by September a barotropic westerly vortex, continuous with the Ferrel vortex, is established. In October and November, this vortex becomes baroclinic and appears distinct from the Ferrel westerlies. Winter circulation has two aspects: (1) warm, barotropic, anticyclonic flow associated with a strengthening and extension of the Alaskan warm ridge, which extends to above 25 mb; and (2) cold-low development near the pole, with a marked tendency for the development of a cold trough over eastern Canada.
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Interestingly they note that they were only able to properly study it very recently (for them, i.e. after WWII), with "the post-war expansion of the northern rawinsonde network" (i.e. weather balloons).

So it's a relatively new concept, and it only makes the news in the US every decade or two when there's a big winter storm that the vortex oscillations push south. So yes, very similar in term of people thinking it's a "new thing".
 

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solrey

Senior Member.
Those ice boulders are made by the same process that forms the smooth round stones at Cobble Beach Oregon, albeit on a different time scale. Pieces break off and are worn smooth by the wave action. Walking across that beach as your feet sink into its thick layer of cobbles with the sound of the waves tinkling through those stones as the water pours back into the sea is quite an awesome experience.

Here are a couple of pics I took on that beach the day after christmas 2013.

DSCN5774.JPG DSCN5781.JPG


More info on Cobble Beach:

http://traveloregon.com/trip-ideas/oregon-stories/the-natural-wonder-of-cobble-beach/
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Those ice boulders are made by the same process that forms the smooth round stones at Cobble Beach Oregon, albeit on a different time scale. Pieces break off and are worn smooth by the wave action. Walking across that beach as your feet sink into its thick layer of cobbles with the sound of the waves tinkling through those stones as the water pours back into the sea is quite an awesome experience.

Here are a couple of pics I took on that beach the day after christmas 2013.

DSCN5774.JPG DSCN5781.JPG


More info on Cobble Beach:

http://traveloregon.com/trip-ideas/oregon-stories/the-natural-wonder-of-cobble-beach/

I think the "rounded pieces of ice" was just speculation. The actual literature says they are accumulations of slush and/or frazil ice (ice formed in water at or slightly below the freezing point).
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
I'm bumping this thread because Dane Wigington is once again claiming, due to ice balls in Siberia, (bold inserted for emphasis):
Again, the "experts" tell us that the "ice boulder" phenomenon is a "natural" occurrence. But if this is so, why is there no long term historical record (or photographs) of this phenomenon occurring? There is no such record because the ridiculously uniform "ice boulders" are absolutely not natural. The "experts" are simply lying, as they are paid to do. https://archive.is/LxBtR
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Trailspotter

Senior Member.
I'm bumping this thread because Dane Wigington is once again claiming, due to ice balls in Siberia, (bold inserted for emphasis):
Again, the "experts" tell us that the "ice boulder" phenomenon is a "natural" occurrence. But if this is so, why is there no long term historical record (or photographs) of this phenomenon occurring? There is no such record because the ridiculously uniform "ice boulders" are absolutely not natural. The "experts" are simply lying, as they are paid to do. https://archive.is/LxBtR
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Here is the link to a recent BBC page about this phenomenon, which contains a video:
Giant snowballs appear on beach in Siberia

There can be 'uniform' balls on beaches made of other materials too.

P1000827.JPG
Balls of mazut (crude oil), which I saw after a storm on a beach in Bintan, Indonesia, facing the Singapore Strait.

IMG_1464.JPG
Balls of sea grass on a beach in Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari, Sicily.
 
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