'Ice Volcanoes' Erupt On Michigan Beach

In February, 2020, Lake Michigan's Oval Beach had a breach, really multiple breaches. As Live Science details, an employee of the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids took a stroll and noticed the beach belching up water. The worker shared pictures of the incident on Twitter, remarking, "You never know what you'll find at the lake until you go out there. Today it was volcanoes." Specifically, they were ice volcanoes. That might sound like evidence that hell has frozen over, but rest assured that this sound, much like the Devil, is a liar. In fact, these so-called volcanoes aren't volcanoes at all. So what the hell are they?

A natural ice stream cone

Citing Tom Niziol, a winter weather expert for the Weather Channel and contributor the the Weather Underground Category 6 blog, Live Science describes ice volcanoes as "cone-like mounds" that occur on the edges of lakes. The mounds come from mounting pressure as water flows beneath sheets of ice and erupts. If the ambient air is sufficiently freezing, the water gushing from the ground will create ice cones on the ground. Meteorologist Matt Benz called it "almost a 'Goldilocks' situation where you need just the right conditions over a period of time to get these [formations] to develop." Since these formations develop over holes in the ground, it's ill-advised to climb them because you'd literally be treading on thin ice.

Visually, Michigan's ice volcanoes are out of this world but shouldn't be confused with ice volcanoes that are literally found outside of the world. According to Forbes contributor Robin Andrews, Pluto and one of Jupiter's moons, Io, are home to ice volcanoes that operate a lot like lava vomiters on Earth. Also called cryovolcanoes, these aren't frosty beach bums chilling by the lake but instead volcanoes whose "magma" consists of "a mixture of water, ammonia, methane and chlorine compounds" that erupt because of heat but freeze on the surface. Though they're literally and figuratively worlds apart, both kinds of ice volcano sound pretty cool.