While it’s not winter yet, frost and snow is starting up around the country. In this week’s Sunday Science Tidbit, we’re going to talk about rime ice.

This week’s Sunday Science Tidbit idea came from Mt. Mitchell in the high country of North Carolina. The peak of the mountain experience single digit wind chills yesterday as well as rime ice!

Rime ice forms from frozen fog. Fog is essentially like a cloud on the ground. Clouds are made up of teeny, tiny water droplets. If the air temperature gets cold enough, you can start to freeze the tiny water droplets, creating the frozen fog.

The supercooled little water droplets begin to freeze on ANY surface exposed to the outdoors!

Here’s the really cool part to rime ice, it forms in horizontal lines and is best seen on vertical surfaces like a pole or sign. It also forms into the wind opposite of what many people would think. The ice builds on itself.

On Mount Washington in New Hampshire, the rime ice is a common occurrence and grows at rates of 1″ – 2″ per hour! Some of the ice structures can get to be several feet thick! If you look up close at the rime ice, you’ll notice it has a detailed, feathery look created by the collection of the little frozen water droplets.

Rime ice is not exclusive to the tallest mountain peaks. It can happen any where including the mountains to the beaches and everywhere in between as long as you have the cold temperatures and supercooled water droplets that freeze!

~ Meteorologist Candice Boling

{Information courtesy of noaa.gov, accuweather.com, Lynn Harris, Robert Bukaty}

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