Ice shelves along Great Lakes pose threat from hidden 'volcanoes'

·4 min read
Ice shelves along Great Lakes pose threat from hidden 'volcanoes'
Ice shelves along Great Lakes pose threat from hidden 'volcanoes'

Ice mounds that have popped up adjacent to the shorelines on the Great Lakes may appear to be an invitation to climb on, but police are warning people to avoid doing so as they are considered dangerous.

In a tweet posted Tuesday that included a graphic on the dangers, Halton police cautioned people to avoid the ice shelves that have formed in multiple locations along Lake Ontario's shoreline.

The image depicts a hidden hole in the ice (an "ice volcano") and how it can lead down to the icy waters underneath it, with little ways for an individual to climb out of it.

WHAT CAUSES ICE SHELVES? HIDDEN HOLES ARE ICE VOLCANOES

According to Melinda Singh, a meteorologist at The Weather Network, ice shelves form as strong winds push the waters of the Great Lakes to shore, then freezes upon impact. This is a continuous process that "builds each time."

"Ice shelves protect the shorelines from erosion, but are also very dangerous since they are not solid structures," said Singh. "Many ice shelves are hollow underneath and tend to form on the lake itself. It is very unsafe to walk on because you could step on a thin patch and fall right into the water."

What people may not realize about the shelves is that the hidden holes on them are called ice volcanoes.

ICEVOLCANO
ICEVOLCANO

(Coffee Cafe)

What are ice volcanoes? They are a conical mound of ice that forms at the edge of an ice shelf, said Matt Grinter, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

"As waves hit the leading edge it carves through the ice, ejecting water upwards into the air. As this process continues, the ejected water continuously freezes, growing the ice volcano larger with each 'eruption,'" says Grinter.

As the ice volcanoes grow, they can develop a thin layer of ice at the opening. This makes it dangerous as it's hard to know where the opening is, Grinter said, noting the thin layer of ice can give way under very little weight. "This can lead to people plunging down into a six-to-10-foot-deep hole into the frigid waters," he said.

REPORTS OF PEOPLE WALKING ON SHELVES, YOUTHS RESCUED

There have been reports of people walking on the mounds off the shores of Kincardine and Jordan, Ont., this season. The latter involved an ice rescue of two youths who had trekked out onto the ice to climb on top of the abandoned Grande Hermine ship.

Ice mounds/Mark Robinson
Ice mounds/Mark Robinson

(Mark Robinson/The Weather Network)

Const. Kevin Martin of the South Bruce OPP told CTV that officers in his region have received several accounts of people trekking on the ice shelves this winter, spanning the shores of most Great Lakes communities on both sides of the border.

SAFETY TIPS FOR WALKING ON THE ICE

If you're venturing out on the ice, the City of Hamilton offers safety tips.

  • Never go alone

  • Keep a close eye on kids and pets

  • If someone falls through the ice, do not go in after them. Call 911 and try to reach them with a pole, stick, rope, or hose. Likewise, do not enter the water to try to rescue pets

  • If you fall in, stay calm, get your arms onto the ice shelf and shout for help. Kick your feet, crawl with your arms, and roll to safety.

If you do fall through the ice, the Canadian Red Cross Society has a number of tips that can help you survive it, found here.

WATCH: AN 'ICE VOLCANO' BURSTS ALONG THE FROZEN SHORES OF LAKE SUPERIOR

Click here to view the video

Follow Nathan Howes on Twitter.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting