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Unusual circle patterns caught by photographer on Mara Lake

Ice circles seen on Mara Lake, March 6, 2021.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Grant Cruickshank
March 09, 2021 - 6:30 AM

When Salmon Arm resident Grant Cruickshank saw these strange designs in the ice on Mara Lake, he found them odd enough to grab a photo March 6.

They appear to be perfect circles forming through the ice. But for what are they and what causes it, we reached out to UBCO earth, environment and science professor Robert Young.

He says the circles may have been formed by methane gas trapped underneath the ice.

Methane is released year-round as a byproduct of decomposition, when bacteria feast on decaying matter and expel methane, he said.

A good test to see if the bubbles are caused by methane is to pierce the ice and take a lighter and see if it’ll burn close to the surface, he said.

That’s the testable hypothesis, he said.

“The ice probably doesn’t freeze deeply, and so the gas would be able to migrate in one area or another,” he said.

Another theory is that ice expands and contracts with heating and cooling. The freezing and thawing cycles can cause patterns in the ice, he said.

“We see these in the far north where the ocean retreats from an area and the freeze-thaw cycles create patterns,” he said.

Cruickshank isn’t the first photographer to capture strange patterns in Interior lake ice this winter. Earlier this year, a photographer captured an interesting photo of bubbles in Osoyoos Lake ice.

READ MORE: Osoyoos photographer captures mysterious ice phenomenon


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