Spring Black Ice

April 19, 2017

Although the temperatures are in the mid-forties today and decidedly not balmy, a wind has been blowing since mid-morning and that has been enough to break up and sink the last of the lingering sheets of fragile ice on the lake.  Ice out!

Every year just before ice out, the stretches of ice—granular from repeated thawing and freezing—become thin and porous, allowing the lake water to seep into the grainy matrix.  At this stage, the watery ice absorbs virtually all the sunlight that falls on it and appears almost perfectly black. This black ice has a nubbly texture, with some sharp angles mixed in.  It is completely different from the smooth, clear black ice that sometimes forms in a sudden cold snap in late fall.  It can be hauntingly beautiful.

Spring black ice is short lived, lasting no more than a week. This year the black ice appeared in the seventy-degree warmth of Easter Sunday and ended this afternoon.  At one point during this three-day window, a flock of migrating ducks landed on a narrow margin of open water near the shore.  They cruised and dove, seemingly unfazed by the still closed nature of most of the lake.

Orange mergansers glide
down a thread of open lake
by dark plains of ice

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