In a rare March appearance, a phenomenon of nature known as ice volcanoes formed on the shores of a few Great Lakes and began erupting this week in plumes of sand, water, ice and, yes, even fish, according to The Buffalo News.
Dave McCoy, an environmental educator at Evangola State Park in New York, told the News that more than two-dozen ice volcanoes sprung up along Lake Erie's shoreline for the fourth time this winter season.
"I've never seen them form in March," McCoy told the News.
They also formed on Lake Superior and Lake Ontario, the latter shown in video provided by The Weather Network:
According to The Buffalo News, ice volcanoes form when environmental conditions are just right, including ice along the shoreline, on-shore winds about 20 mph and certain wave actions. Those combined with cold water and frigid air help create the cones that become ice volcanoes.
WIVB explained it this way: "They form when ice on the shore begins to crack and piles on top of itself. Water continues to flow in from the lake and with nowhere to go, shoots up the middle of the rare formations, mimicking the look of a volcano with white lava."
Here is video of ice volcanoes erupting on Lake Superior in late January:
The development of ice volcanoes was first studied on the Great Lakes in the 1970s by scientists from SUNY Fredonia State. The study was published in the Journal of Glaciology in 1973. An excerpt:
Volcano-like, conical mounds of ice up to 5 meters high form each winter along portions of the southern shore of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Particularly large and regular examples of ice volcanoes form on the west side of Point Gratiot at Dunkirk, New York, when the lake is open, and a shelf of ice is attached to the shore.
When observed in active formations, eruptions of slush, ice and spray spouted two or more times the height of the cones. In some cases this was 10 meters or more in the air. Flowing, sliding and rolling down the flanks of the cone, the ice was added rapidly.
The News reported that viewing the ice volcanoes is like walking on the surface of the moon.
"You have craters, huge cracks in the ice," McCoy said. "It's like another world. It's like another planet."