What West Seattle’s frosty weather has in common with Mars

If you look closely, you’ll see another dimension to our frosty, foggy weather. Jason Gift Enevoldsen shares his photo, and this explanation:

A result of the recent slow freezes in WS this week, thin ice crystals (needle ice) lift up small rocks, dirt, and plants in unusual arrangements. It has been fascinating looking for these miniature landscapes and watching how they change from day to day.

And in a larger context, Jason adds:

My wife, Alice (alicesastroinfo.com), and I disagree about whether this should be properly called frost heave, needle ice, or soil creep. But in any case, she found that there’s evidence for a similar process (soil being moved by ice formation and thaw) on Mars:


(NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
The origin of this feature is not known for certain, but it resembles Arctic features on Earth called pingos. A pingo develops when ice lifts part of the ground, making a giant frost heave. This image, about 4 km wide, is part of image P15_007033_1915_XI_11N045W taken by the Context Imager (CTX) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The orbiter’s website, by the way, is showing even more wintry imagery right now.

2 Replies to "What West Seattle's frosty weather has in common with Mars"

  • ramona January 20, 2013 (9:06 am)

    Very Cool! I have never heard of such a thing. Thanks so much, Jason, for the great photo and explanation.

  • Ray West January 20, 2013 (2:04 pm)

    I think the second photo should be called “Moonscape.” Very nice photos.

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