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Explaining the mystery of hair ice


In the December of 2009, I wrote one of my first blog posts on something very strange that I found on a walk. It was ice attached to a rotting tree branch, but it looked almost like candy floss and looked very delicate and pretty.

Since I first found this, I have seen them loads more times and finally got to the bottom of the mystery about these strange formations - but I've just realised I never blogged about it ! Since my village is covered in snow and ice at the moment, this seemed the right time to blog about it !

On the older post, I got a comment from Holland saying that the ice is called hair ice. After Googling that earlier, I found that all news articles related to it said that is was quite rare. I'm not convinced it's rare - on the three mile walk I do near my village I saw dozens of examples of it every day during the week. The BBC website says that they form at night and melt when the sun comes up, but I've seen them during the day; it just depends on the temperature,

According to the BBC website ( here ), the hair ice is formed on wet, rotting wood when it is just below 0°C, by a fungus called Exidiopsis effusa. When the fungus is not present, the ice will still form, but it will be less fragile. The ice itself looks like a clump of white deer fur, and it is most common in the north of Europe.

The hair like parts of the ice have a diameter of only 0.01mm ! If you try to pick it up or even touch it, it will melt very quickly and will blend in very well if it is snowy. The theory of how ice hair was formed has been around for around 100 years. Besides from hair ice it can also be known as ice wool or frost beard. Here's a video from one of my walks of how it looks and feels, and how it can be squeezed into a piece of ice.

It may not be rare (at least not here) but it's certainly VERY special, and brilliant to see. It seems to me to form on dead wood after a wet spell, then an overnight frost. Look out for it near you !

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