When conditions are right, the ice sheets that form on bodies of water in winter will break, and the motion of the wind will cause the pieces to slide and stack, causing ethereal, hypnotic scenes like the ones in this video from the Lake Superior coast in Minnesota.
Dawn M. LaPointe of Duluth's Radiant Spirit Gallery took the video on February 13 on Brighton Beach in Canal Park. She says the ice was 1/4" to 3" (0.6 to 7.6 centimeters) thick and sounded like breaking glass, which you can hear in the video.
"The sparkles visible in some segments were from the sun gilding the frost flowers that had formed on top of the new ice overnight—icing on the cake!" She wrote.
And even though the footage looks like it's been sped up in places, it's all in normal speed, revealing just how fast ice can move under the right conditions. (See photos of Lake Superior's ice caves.)
The video is a stunning reminder of the beauty and often dynamic nature of lake ice, says Lisa Borre, a senior researcher with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York, who studies lake ecosystems. It is also a reminder of how lake ice has been shrinking across much of the planet as it warms, she notes.
"After a warm fall and early winter, there is not much ice on Lake Superior this year," she says, pointing to the most recent government images.
A drop in lake ice can have a significant effect on evaporation rates, wildlife, transportation, and recreation. Over the past few years, water levels dropped on Lakes Huron and Michigan, spurred by warming-driven evaporation.
Correction: An earlier version of this story suggested the motion of water caused the ice stacking, but scientists think it is actually driven by the wind.