Cook County Blog

What are frost flowers? Rare phenomena appears in Cook County, Minn.

Posted by Kjersti Vick on Nov 10, 2017 2:35:14 PM
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Frost Flower in Lutsen, MN. Photo taken Nov 10, 2017 - by Kjersti Vick.jpg

Frost flowers are a rare natural phenomena that occur when the air temp is lower than the water below. They can be compared to "giant" snowflakes and can be up to 3" high (the one pictured above was about 1" tall). Typically found on thin or new ice, or ice that has some imperfections that allow air to evaporate into the cold dry air.  

How are frost flowers formedWhile this photo was taken on a freshwater lake vs the sea, the process is similar. According to NPR.org, "When the air gets that different from the sea, the dryness pulls moisture off little bumps in the ice, bits of ice vaporize, the air gets humid — but only for a while. The cold makes water vapor heavy. The air wants to release that excess weight, so crystal by crystal, air turns back into ice, creating delicate, feathery tendrils that reach sometimes two, three inches high, like giant snowflakes. The sea, literally, blossoms.

Is this really a frost flower? Or is this frost flower more likely a version of hoarfrost? There is little information about what constitutes a frost flower, however from examples found online- these appear to be a very similar version to what is found in the artic. Which isn't too suprising, this is northern Minnesota afterall :-) . Regardless of what it is, it is incredibly beautiful. 

Frost Flower in Lutsen, Mn - Photo Nov 10, 2017 (1).jpg

Frost flowers on Nov 10, 2017 - in the distance are several others.jpg

More information can be found about frost flowers and how they are caused:

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Topics: Winter, phenomena