Minnesota Experiences Rare Antarctica Phenomenon as Temperatures Plunge

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A rare phenomenon typically seen in Antarctica and the Baltic Sea was found floating in a Minnesota river on Monday.

A woman captured a video of thousands of ice pancakes that had formed on top of a river in Wheaton, Minnesota, on Monday. The phenomenon is typically seen in Antarctica as it occurs in very cold oceans and lakes, but a dip in temperatures created the unique spectacle in a river.

Carol Bauer posted the video on social media. The aerial footage shows the ice pancakes nestled together in the river. AccuWeather shared the video to its X account, as well.

“Minnesota knows how to ring in the New Year – with some incredible ice pancakes!” AccuWeather posted alongside the video. “The rare phenomenon is caused by waves knocking pieces of ice together, rounding their edges.”

The Met Office, a weather agency in the United Kingdom, said ice pancakes can range from 8 inches to nearly 7 feet wide. The ice forms on rivers when the foam freezes, joins together, and is then sucked into a swirling current of water, which produces a circular shape.

“As other bits of frozen foam and ice hit the forming disc they freeze to it and increase its size,” the Met Office said on its website. “Whilst ice pancakes look like solid discs, they are often quite slushy and easily break apart when lifted up.”

Newsweek reached out to the Met Office via email for comment.

Many states have already experienced above-average temperatures this winter, which was expected based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predictions considering the El NiƱo climate pattern that often brings warmer winter temperatures to much of the United States.

The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Aberdeen, South Dakota, which services the Wheaton, Minnesota area, said that this December was one of the warmest on record for the region.

Pancake ice in the Bering Sea from a NOAA ship. On Monday, the rare phenomenon formed in a Minnesota river.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The New Year brought the return of near-normal temperatures following blizzard conditions in South Dakota over the Christmas holiday. The temperatures, which dipped to below freezing on Monday for Wheaton, jumped back above normal on Tuesday before cooling again on Wednesday.

On the eastern side of the state, the year was the third warmest year on record for the Twin Cities and the fourth warmest in St. Cloud. The warm temperatures caused the warmest December on record for each of those cities, NWS Twin Cities said in a social media post.

Some weather models show that much of the U.S. is in for a cold January, which could produce more ice-related events.

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