The polar vortex, a cyclone of cold air constantly spinning around the Arctic Circle, has struck again, leaving the eastern half of the country under glacial temperatures. Fayetteville hasn’t been above freezing in four straight days, leaving fountains, ponds, creeks and lakes encased in ice.
Lucky for me, this isn’t your freezer’s ice; this is a rock-hard jewel, a crystal-clear substance that can molded into a limitless array of forms: jagged, geometric, cabochon, ropey, wavy and more. I found examples in my apartment complex, in the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks, at the square downtown and along Lake Fayetteville, which today was almost completely frozen over. All of these varieties fascinate me, particularly because I have no idea how some of them form.
Icicles work just like stalagmites and stalactites in caves, with frozen water accumulating down or up instead of solid calcium carbonate. Icicles even have the same lumpiness as cave formations and form columns in the same way when they meet.
These curves mystify me, especially because they stack on top of each other like stairs, and all of them are enveloped by another, perfectly clear layer of ice. All I know is formations like these build gradually, one layer at a time.
With Lake Fayetteville frozen several inches deep, we were treated to a phenomenon I’ll dub chirping ice: Throw something on the frozen surface, and a sharp, clear chirrup will ring out with each bounce. Here’s one example (start around 4:27). Here’s another. Rocks are good for the effect, but tree limbs or hunks of wood can be better, and chunks of ice are the best, skittering across the lake for a good 15 seconds with a sort of high-pitched, electronic-sounding hum. Today was my first time hearing that amazing sound in person.
A man wielding binoculars pointed out a bald eagle nearby, too as. Fish were hard to reach today, but there were a couple open patches of water the bird might’ve used. I don’t know — I didn’t see it move in several minutes’ watching.
I’ve got one last consequence of the weather to show you: The waning Moon a few nights ago was ringed by an iridescent corona.
Circles of light and color like this ring the Moon and Sun when there’s a thin, translucent layer of clouds between us and them, especially when those clouds are made of tiny ice crystals — just one more beautiful form of ice to add to the list.
Hope you’re staying warm! Thanks for looking.