Lake Michigan 'pancake ice' explained

  • Image via Reddit
Image via Reddit
January 25, 2013|By Mick Swasko, @mickswasko | RedEye

What’s up with those odd, circular shapes in the ice on Lake Michigan?

WGN Meteorologist Tom Skilling, of course, has the answer.

“What you’re looking at is pancake ice,” he said. The common phenomenon, he explained, is the result of blocks of ice breaking off and ramming into one another due to waves. The more they collide, the more a slushy rim builds around the edges of the blocks, causing the ice to appear like circular footprints.

“It’s a fairly common occurrence, but it does make you wonder what’s going on when you see it,” he said. “It’s quite interesting.”

Though common, the pancake ice isn’t something Skilling says he’s been asked about in a while. With no ice formation last year, there wasn’t a lot of pancake ice formations. It’s no surprise, though, that it’s making an appearance now. 

“This has been the coldest five-day spell in three years,” Skilling said of the last week. 

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