By what name shall I call thee, bell-shaped icicle?
March 13, 2010 2:11 PM   Subscribe

I keep running into these unusual bell-shaped icicles. I love them, but I want to know their name and how they're formed. Any natural history buffs or icicle fanciers out there?

I found them in the woods of West Virginia, but I've seen them in lots of other places. My guess is that the cooler surface of the water allows more ice molecules to condense directly above the stream, and the shape becomes more pronounced with the natural trail of melting water creating more of a bell shape. But this is a guess and I'd love to find out their name or other cool scientific facts about them. Thanks!
posted by ajarbaday to Science & Nature (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When I've see things like that I assumed that the water would sometimes touch the icicle, freezing an extra layer to it.

I don't know about your theory... the water is warmer than the ice, unless it's running fairly swiftly, and I doubt there's much evaporation going on to make the area above the water more humid than farther up.

If these are happening during the thaw, though, maybe the water keeps the ice near the bottom colder, making it melt slower/refreeze melting ice from above.
posted by cmoj at 2:33 PM on March 13, 2010

i always see these at waterline, and i assumed it was because of a combination of all those factors, but mostly because water comes up and adds to the icicle.
posted by RedEmma at 2:38 PM on March 13, 2010

You're right, the surface of the water would be warmer and it sounds like the water droplets stick to the icicle surface. When I've returned to the same spot after a thaw the bells have usually fallen off and all that's left is an icicle, so that would be additional evidence against my original theory. Maybe these guys just don't have a name yet.
posted by ajarbaday at 6:04 PM on March 13, 2010

Maybe those icicles are like these ones (the explanation is pretty much exactly what you've said).
posted by bluefly at 6:33 AM on March 14, 2010

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