Ground-Ice - Encyclopedia

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GROUND-ICE,' ice formed at the bottom of streams while the temperature of the water is above freezing-point. Everything points to radiation as the prime cause of the formation of ground-ice. It is formed only under a clear sky, never in cloudy weather; it is most readily formed on dark rocks, and never under any covering such as a bridge, and rarely under surfaceice. Professor Howard T. Barnes of McGill University concludes that the radiation from a river bed in cold and clear nights goes through the water in long rays that penetrate much more easily from below upwards than the sun's heat rays from above downwards, which are mostly absorbed by the first few feet of water. On a cold clear night, therefore, the radiation from the bottom is excessive, and loosely-grown spongy masses of anchor-ice form on the bottom, which on the following bright sunny day receive just sufficient heat from the sun to detach the mass of 1 The O. Eng. word grund,ground,is common to Teutonic languages, cf. Du. grond, Ger. Grund, but has no cognates outside Teutonic. The suggestion that the origin is to be found in "grind," to crush small, reduce to powder, is plausible, but the primary meaning seems to be the lowest part or bottom of anything rather than grit, sand or gravel. The main branches in sense appear to be, first, bottom, as of the sea or a river, cf. the use, in the plural, for dregs; second, base or foundation, actual, as of the first or main surface of a painting, fabric, &c., or figurative, as of a principle or reason; third. the surface of the earth, or a particular part of that surface.

ice, which rises to the surface with considerable force. It is probable that owing to surface tension a thin film of stationary water rests upon the boulders and sand over which a stream flows, and that this, becoming frozen owing to radiation, forms the foundation for the anchor-ice and produces a surface upon which the descending frazil-ice (see below) can lodge. The theory of radiation from the boulders is supported by the fact that as the ice is formed upon them in response to a sudden fall in the air temperature, it is only released under the influence of a strong rise of temperature during the morning. It may not rise for several days, but the advent of bright sunlight is followed by the appearance on the surface of masses of ground-ice. This ice has a spongy texture and frequently carries gravel with it when it rises. It is said that the bottom of Lake Erie is strewn with gravel that has been floated down in this way. This "anchor-ice," as it was called by Canadian trappers, frequently forms dams across narrow portions of the river where the floating masses are caught. Dr H. Landor pointed out that the Mackenzie and Mississippi rivers, which rise in the same region and flow in opposite directions, carry ground-ice from their head-waters for a considerable distance down stream, and suggested that here and in Siberia many forms of vegetable and animal life may be distributed from a centre by this agency, since the material carried by the floating ice would contain the seeds and eggs or larvae of many forms.

Besides ground-ice and anchor-ice this formation is called also bottom-ice, ground-gru and lappered ice, the two last names being Scottish. In France it is called glace du fond, in Germany Grundeis, and in French Canada moutonne from the appearance of sheep at rest, since the ice formed at the bottom grows in woolly, spongy masses upon boulders or other projections.

"Frazil-ice" is a Canadian term from the French for "forgecinders." It is surface ice formed in spicules and carried downwards in water agitated by winds or rapids. The frazil-ice may render swiftly moving water turbid with ice crystals, it may be swirled downwards and accumulated upon the ground ice, or it may be swept under the sheet of surface-ice, coating the under surface of the sheet to a thickness as great as 80 ft. of loose spicular ice.

See W. G. Thompson, in Nature, i. 555 (1870); H. Landor, in Geological Magazine, decade II., vol. iii., p. 459 (1876); H. T. Barnes, Ice Formation with special Reference to Anchor-ice and Frazil (1906).

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