Science | Weather & Climate

Nyda’s giant ice balls

Giant ice balls covered the coast along the Gulf of Ob, an arm of the Kara Sea in north-western Siberia  a little over a week ago. The phenomenon was noticed in the small village of Nyda, which lies on the Yamal Peninsula just above the Arctic Circle.

The icy spheres ranged from the size of a tennis ball to almost 3 feet across, covering 18 km of the coast.

Locals in Nyda say they have never seen anything comparable in the past.

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However, this is not the first time this winter phenomenon has occurred. In 2013 and 2015, ice boulders had washed ashore on the banks of Lake Michigan. In March 2015, giant ice balls had washed ashore in Stroomi on the Finnish Gulf coast.

Giant ice balls or boulders are formed when water begins to freeze and is pushed ashore by wave action, according to AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Jim Andrews. A small chunk of ice in the water grows in size as it tumbles in the waves. The ice boulders form when the air is cold enough for the water to instantly freeze and the lake is cold, but not too cold.  A stiff breeze helps to churn things up.

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The process begins as a small chunk of ice in the shore. The tiny bit of ice slowly grows larger as it tumbles in the seas, or lakes, growing layer by layer as the water instantaneously freezes upon it. Ice boulders can only form when the air is cold enough for the water to instantly freeze. After hours of tumbling, the ice ball can become as large as a football. Deposited on the shore, the picturesque ice balled shore is a must visit as it is a meteorological phenomenon that not happen too often.

In the case of the Arctic beach along the Gulf of Ob, the tide that came in contacted a layer of frost, covering the beach in ice. As the water slowly receded, it left bits of ice that spun on the wet sand creating spheres.

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