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Ice ‘donuts’ And ‘pancakes’ Transform Lake Michigan Shoreline

In one Wisconsin town, the shoreline of Lake Michigan was changed by an extraordinarily frosty scene

An unusually icy spectacle transformed the Lake Michigan shoreline in one Wisconsin town. Ice donuts lined the lake’s edge in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, on Tuesday following an Arctic outbreak this past weekend. The town, located roughly an hour and a half north of Milwaukee, is known for its timber trading and commercial fishing, but now, it will be known for its stunning display of an icy occurrence.

In a video shared on Facebook, the town’s famous lighthouse seemingly looked small compared to the ice chunks that were floating in the water. Hence the name, the ice chunks resembled donuts as they bobbed up and down in the water.

“Looks like Krispy Kreme donuts,” one person said in the comments on the video.

During this time of year, which is notoriously known for bitterly cold air across the northern United States, the shoreline of Lake Michigan is sometimes covered in unique ice formations. Ice pancakes have been spotted on the Chicago shoreline, but other peculiarities such as ice donuts, ice bites or ice balls can sometimes appear.

“Ice pancakes form on seas or lakes with enough wave action to prevent a solid sheet of ice from forming,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda said. “Or, there could already be a thin covering of ice, but then waves cause the ice to break up.”

As the broken pieces of ice move about in the waves, they bump into each other, chipping off many of the pointed edges and causing the floating ice chunks to become more rounded in appearance. According to Sojda, when the pieces collide and water splashes up around the edges and refreezes, it creates thicker ice around the periphery of the ‘pancake,’ which can sometimes make these ice pancakes look more like donuts.

While ice pancakes or donuts may look like solid discs, they are actually quite slushy and break apart easily when lifted.

IN FILE – Ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan as temperatures hang in the single digits on January 26, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. PHOTO BY SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

In Chicago, ice pancakes have been spotted this year along the shore, but another icy occurrence allowed one ice skater to get a ride he’ll likely never forget.

As waves came crashing down on a pier and freezing temperatures froze the water, “buttery smooth ice” was left behind. This created ideal and safe ice skating conditions for Craig Shimala, a Chicago resident and photographer. Shimala laced up his skates and enjoyed a smooth trip along the ice-covered pier.

Icy occurrences like icy donuts or pancakes aren’t just reserved for Lake Michigan. After an extremely cold burst of weather during the first weekend of February, ice pancakes started lining the shoreline of Lake Erie in Buffalo, New York. A photographer captured a stunning video of the unique ice formation as the sun set across Lake Erie on Saturday.

Ice pancakes form on Lake Erie’s shoreline in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, after a blast of Arctic air sent temperatures well below freezing. (Weather_buffalo via Storyful)

Ice pancakes frequently form when temperatures drop well below freezing for several days. They are commonly seen in the Baltic Sea and around Antarctica; however, they do frequently form on the Great Lakes and in Canada.

In fresh water, the water temperature has to be below 32 degrees Fahrenheit to form ice and create this spectacle. According to Sojda, saltwater typically has to cool to 28 F before ice forms.

As of Feb. 7, 2023, the Great Lakes are only 13.5 percent covered by ice, according to the latest ice analysis from the Great Lake Environmental Research Laboratory. This is down more than half from this time last year when the Great Lakes were nearly 30 percent ice-covered.

The lowest ice coverage on this date since records began in 1973 was in 1997 when only 5.2% of the Great Lakes were covered in ice. In 2012, the Great Lakes had the most ice coverage for Feb. 7 in recorded history, with 86.9 percent of the lakes covered.


Produced in association with AccuWeather.

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