Photos of the Week – December 13, 2019

Recent temperature swings, including many freezes and thaws, have created some interesting patterns on the frozen surfaces of wetlands and ponds. Early this week, I took advantage of the latest cold temperatures to wander out on the pond/wetland at our family prairie. There was only minor cracking beneath my feet as I carefully stepped and slid across the (mostly) frozen surface. I stayed near the edges where I knew the water below me was only a foot or so deep and tried to distribute my weight as evenly as I could. That’s all completely normal behavior, right?

As a call-back to my previous post about ‘shooting into the sun’… You can see the kind of interesting patterns that lured me out onto the ice.
There was a thin film of dust across much of the ice, probably blown in by 40-50 mph winds last week.
A helpful Instagram follower alerted me that this is called ‘pancake ice’. These dinner-plate-sized formations were aligned along a line of transition between deeper and shallower water. I assume they were formed by wind pushing slush around along the boundary between the deeper open water (at the time) and shallower frozen portion of the wetland.

I spent about an hour on that ice, much of it waiting for the brief periods when the sun popped out from behind the thin clouds moving across the southern sky. I only stepped through the ice once, and that was when I decided to confirm my suspicion that the ice along the northern shore was probably thinner because of its increased exposure to the sun. Hooray for science… My waterproof boots were more than sufficient to keep me dry.

Below are some more photos from my morning jaunt.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

8 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – December 13, 2019

  1. I especially like the photos showing stubble poking through the ice (the one with the ice ‘cap’ is my favorite), but I’m struck by how much the pancake ice shapes resemble certain fruiting lichens.


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