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An exploratory study of ice-cube spikes

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It is well known that ice-cube spikes form by the extrusion of water at the surface of a freezing ice cube, driven by the expansion accompanying freezing. The growing spikes are water-filled ice tubes, growing at their tips as the water is expelled. This paper represents an exploration of their formation and the principles behind whether a freezing ice cube grows a spike or not. For this purpose, ice cubes are frozen in one set of conditions to observe what happens when spikes do or do not form. Spike formation requires a nearly steady-state freezing-and-extrusion process at the growing tip, in order to maintain a nearly constant diameter. Most spikes are polycrystals with special orientation relationships that evidently allow the steady state to become established. Thus the orientations of the initial crystals, formed by chance, help to determine whether a spike forms or not. The main alternative to spike formation is flooding over the upper surface of the ice. Spike formation depends upon an effectively non-zero contact angle of water on ice that impedes flooding. The onset of flooding is probably sensitive to the ice growth rate at the water surface, which depends strongly upon the crystal orientation with respect to the water surface where it contacts the crystal.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-03-01

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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