Lake Michigan Ice Volcanoes Are a Thing This Season

  • Ice volcanoes aren't very common but there is a good chance you will see them this year.

We’re in the coldest season of the year, winter, and up here in the Midwest, they can be pretty brutal. But this year, there is something new that’s been happening, and they have been named, “ice volcanoes.”

In Detroit, a cold front first brought ice balls, but now, we have ice volcanoes. Ernie Ostuno, National Weather Service meteorologist, got some great photos of these erupting ice volcanoes on Sunday while at Oval Beach in Saugatuck, Michigan.

An ice volcano gets its name from its looks, as it appears as a cone-shaped mound of ice that has formed over the lake because of an eruption of water pixaand slush through the ice shelf. “Ice volcanoes occur in locations in which waves hit accumulated ice on the shoreline with some force,” said meteorologist, Cort Spholten, with the National Weather Service of Grand Rapids.

“We were cold enough to form ice on the shore of Lake Michigan, and water had broken the surface of that ice,” Spholten said. “The waves … were strong enough so the water channels through, it squeezes water upwards and tosses the floating ice up. As it happens, over the course of hours or days, it forms a cone, and it resembles a volcano.”

Very specific conditions have to be present for these “volcanoes” to form, according to Spholten. “It needs to stay cold enough to keep the ice around, and waves need to be large enough to force water upwards against the ice shelf,” he said.

So how long will we continue to see these ice volcanoes?

As of Monday February 17th, Spholten said, “Today, winds from the southeast should diminish the waves. It’s unlikely ice volcanoes will be seen today compared to yesterday, but it’s not impossible.”

Ice volcanoes can be dangerous, especially if climbed on. If you slip down and into the water on the far side of an ice volcano, there could be no way to get out of the icy water.