GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The slow start to winter has delayed the formation of a local favorite phenomenon on Lake Michigan: ice balls.
These orbs of ice form when consistently cold weather takes its toll on the waters close to the shores of Lake Michigan.
The last three months have all trended much warmer than usual, with highs rarely sinking below freezing. This has kept Lake Michigan wide open with very little ice concentration and almost no ice on our lakeshores.
Our recent string of chilly temperatures has helped to turn the tide. One of the first signs of ice formation was spotted this week near Holland.
Ice balls usually are a precursor to ice sheets building along the banks of Lake Michigan. They form as a slushy frazil ice collects on the surface of the water and begins crashing around. As the slushy ice is rolled around by the waves of the lake, it eventually cements together as a rolling ball. It is almost as if Lake Michigan is doing its best to make a snowman, but all it has to work with is the slush on the top of the water.
Eventually, the waves hold several bobbing gray snow boulders, which then collect together to create a shelf.