‘Ice volcanoes’ are erupting on a Michigan beach and it’s amazing to watch

ice volcano
Twitter | NWS Grand Rapids

Not all volcanoes erupt with lava — on a Lake Michigan Beach in Saugatuck, Michigan, some amazing “ice volcanoes” erupted on Feb. 16. This amazing phenomenon happens when building waves of water are pushed under an ice sheet, and the pressure causes the water to “erupt” out through holes in the ice.

The National Weather Service Grand Rapids captured some awesome photos of the ice volcanoes at Oval Beach and posted them on Twitter.

“You never know what you’ll find at the lake until you go out there,” read the tweet that accompanied this close-up shot of an ice explosion. “Today it was volcanoes.”


These “ice volcanoes” aren’t actual volcanoes, which eject molten rock, lava, vapor and gas from beneath the earth’s crust into the atmosphere.

Elsewhere in the universe, there are phenomena called cryovolcanoes that are true ice volcanoes. These giant landscape features spew super-chilled plumes of magma made of water, ammonia, or methane. Pluto, Saturn’s moon Titan and the dwarf planet Ceres have them.

The ice volcanoes photographed by the NWS are much smaller-scale disturbances that often occur in the North American Great Lakes region.

Here’s a wider shot the NWS posted as well, showing several of the more terrestrial ice volcanoes in action:

“It was a great day to visit the beach and watch the waves interact with the ice,” read the tweet. “Here’s a couple of ‘ice volcanoes’ erupting at Oval Beach on Sunday, February 16, 2020.”

Tim Niziol, winter weather expert for The Weather Channel, was super impressed with the shots, calling them “some of the best photos of ice volcanoes I have seen” in a Facebook post:

“They form as water is pushed under the ice sheet and as the pressure builds up the water shoots out through holes in the ice,” he explained. “If it’s very cold, then that spray freezes up eventually building a cone like the ones we see here. They can be very dangerous to climb on however because they are hollow and built over that hole in the ice. Don’t ever go out venturing onto them!!”

Point taken!

Michigan Technological University explains that these erupting ice cones range in size from less than one meter to greater than eight meters in height, measured from base to peak. They commonly occur during the winter months along the north shore of Lake Superior, and they are most likely to form in the presence of high onshore winds from snow squalls and regional storms.

Just in case we needed more proof of how fascinating nature can be, here it is!

Curiosity, News, Science & Nature
, ,

Related posts

Ice melt test on ice-covered welcome mat
Make DIY ice melt with just 3 common household ingredients
small dog in snow looking up
When is it too cold to walk your dog? Consult this handy chart
Snow covers car in winter weather
Why you shouldn't heat up your car for long in cold winter weather
Woman in blanket (left), snow brush (center), air compressor (right)
11 items you should have in your car during the winter

About the Author
Kate Streit
Kate Streit lives in Chicago. She enjoys stand-up comedy, mystery novels, memoirs, summer and pumpkin spice anything.

From our partners