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Photo: Risto Matilla.
Risto Matilla, an amateur photographer, took this picture of ice eggs found on a Finnish beach. The largest was the size of a soccer ball. Ice eggs have also been seen in Siberia and Michigan.

I continually find Nature amazing. Whether it’s the cardinal in my yard this morning collecting grass to build a nest or author Sarah Smarsh’s experience last weekend at an outdoor concert in Kansas, where the audience came terrifyingly close to a tornado-producing supercell. Then there is a weather phenomenon like the one in today’s story,

Nicoletta Lanese wrote about it in November 2019, but it’s new to me. I just had to share it. Especially that picture — worth a thousand words.

Lanese’s report was at the BBC. “Thousands of egg-shaped balls of ice have covered a beach in Finland, the result of a rare weather phenomenon. Amateur photographer Risto Mattila was among those who came across the ‘ice eggs’ on Hailuoto Island in the Gulf of Bothnia between Finland and Sweden.

“Experts say it is caused by a rare process in which small pieces of ice are rolled over by wind and water.

“Mr Mattila, from the nearby city of Oulu, told the BBC he had never seen anything like it before. ‘I was with my wife at Marjaniemi beach. The weather was sunny, about -1C (30F) and it was quite a windy day, he told the BBC. ‘There we found this amazing phenomenon. There was snow and ice eggs along the beach near the water line.’

“Mr Mattila said the balls of ice covered an area of about 30m (100ft). The smallest were the size of eggs and the biggest were the size of footballs [soccer balls].

” ‘That was an amazing view. I have never seen anything like this during 25 years living in the vicinity,’ Mr Mattila said. …

“BBC Weather expert George Goodfellow said conditions needed to be cold and a bit windy for the ice balls to form. ‘The general picture is that they form from pieces of larger ice sheet which then get jostled around by waves, making them rounder,’ he said. … ‘The result is a ball of smooth ice which can then get deposited on to a beach, either blown there or getting left there when the tide goes out.’

“Similar sights have been reported before, including in Russia and on Lake Michigan near Chicago.”

Jessica Murray adds this at the Guardian: “Jouni Vainio, an ice specialist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, said the occurrence was not common, but could happen about once a year in the right weather conditions.

“ ‘You need the right air temperature (below zero, but only a bit), the right water temperature (near freezing point), a shallow and gently sloping sandy beach and calm waves, maybe a light swell,’ he said.

“You also need something that acts as the core. The core begins to collect ice around it and the swell moves it along the beach, forward and back. A small ball surface gets wet, freezes and becomes bigger and bigger.’

“Autumn is the perfect time to see the phenomenon, according to Dr James Carter, emeritus professor of geography-geology at Illinois State University, as this is when ice starts to form on the surface of water, creating a form of slush when moved by waves.

“ ‘I can picture the back and forth motion of the surface shaping the slushy mix,’ he said. ‘Thanks to the photographer who shared the photos and observations, now the world gets to see something most of us would never be able to see.’ ”

According to a 2016 BBC report, residents of Nyda in Siberia found a strange and beautiful sight “in the Gulf of Ob, in northwest Siberia, after thousands of natural snowballs formed on the beach.

“An 11-mile (18km) stretch of coast was covered in the icy spheres. The sculptural shapes range from the size of a tennis ball to almost 1m (3ft) across. … Locals in the village of Nyda, which lies on the Yamal Peninsula just above the Arctic Circle, say they have never seen anything to compare to them.”

Check out the map showing the location of the Finnish find at the BBC, here, and read more at the Guardian, here. No firewalls, bless their hearts.

Lake Michigan, 2010

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