Tag Archives: ice volcano

Volcanoes On A Great Lake

If you were told there could be volcanoes along the shore of Lake Erie in winter, would you believe it? While it may be hard to imagine, Lake Erie does in fact produce volcanoes and Evangola State Park can be one of the best places to see them!

Unlike traditional volcanoes, the ones found at Evangola State Park are not made of rock and magma, but rather water and ice. Ice volcanoes are a temporary outcome of a partially frozen lake. When ice begins to form on the water’s surface, powerful winds push large waves towards the shore. As they do, the water is sandwiched between the shore and the ice, creating a buildup of pressure.

A gap in shelf ice allows for potential formation of an ice volcano.

Eventually with nowhere else to go, this pressure causes the water to burst through cracks in the ice. The resulting spray from this burst, freezes on the ice surface, accumulating in the shape of a cone with an open, unfrozen center. With each successive wave, plumes of water erupt from the newly formed ice volcano, building this winter wonder to potential heights of 20-plus feet! Occasionally the ice may build up in the shape of a cone, but without an open center. These rolling hills of ice become so called ice-dunes.

While Lake Erie is one of the best locations to see ice volcanoes, Lakes Ontario, Michigan, and Superior can also produce these icy cones when conditions are right. For example, such volcanoes have also recently formed during the cold snap at Hamlin Beach State Park in Monroe County and Fair Haven Beach State Park in Cayuga County.

Ice Volcano at Hamlin Beach State Park in February 2022. (Photo Credit – Friends of Hamlin Beach State Park/Denise Bianrosa Duffy)

Further from home but to the excitement of many, in 2021 a 45-foot tall ice volcano formed in southeastern Kazakhstan as water from a hot spring gushed through a thick layer of ice, creating a massive volcano for all to enjoy. 

But also, to be clear, the shelf ice on a lake where these structures form can be extremely unsafe and people are strongly advised against venturing out on it to get closer to ice volcanoes.

Confine sightseeing to the shoreline or stick with a guided tour by a trained Parks naturalist. One such hike is scheduled for Feb. 8 at Evangola State Park. Check with the park to learn if the volcanoes have formed.

As a recent warning from the police department in Halton, Ontario, describes, if someone falls through shelf ice or down the opening of an ice volcano into the lake water below, it can be nearly impossible to get out even if aid is nearby. Cold lake water can quickly induce hypothermia, which can lead to death.

This graphic below illustrates the danger:


A shoreline guided tour past ice volcanoes at Evangola State Park. Remember, DO NOT venture out on shelf ice or approach an ice volcano. It is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS with the potential for falling into the lake water below with little chance of getting out.

Leaving earthly risk behind for a moment, scientists have even been able to detect ice volcanoes from several planets and moons deep in space. Typically called cryovolcanoes, these are defined as volcanoes that erupt with ice, water, or other materials such as methane and ammonia. In 2010, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft found possible ice volcanoes on Saturn’s moon Titan and in 2016 images from the Dawn space probe revealed dozens of ancient ice volcanoes on the dwarf planet Ceres

Ahuna Mons, an ice volcano on the dwarf planet Ceres, as seen by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. (Photo Credit – NASA, JPL-Caltech, UCLA, MPS, DLR and IDA

Back on earth, favorable conditions for ice volcano formation here in New York haven’t been consistent in recent years. Warmer winters have resulted in less ice on all the Great Lakes. In 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that only 2.4 percent of the Great Lakes surface was covered by ice in late January, the smallest amount in nearly 50 years. It was also noted that it was ninth-warmest January on record. While strong waves are needed to form ice volcanoes, strong waves with warmer temperatures will result in their destruction or prevent them from forming at all.

Despite our changing climate, ice volcanoes can still be a common occurrence during the winter months. The biggest change is in their longevity. For example, in the past several years, ice volcanoes at Evangola State Park have only lasted a few weeks or even just a few days after forming, as sudden warm spells take hold and break them apart.

For your best chance to experience ice volcanoes, be sure to keep a close watch on your local weather forecast and head towards the lake shore after a push of cold artic air passes through. To add to the adventure of enjoying these frozen phenomena, our team of environmental educators offer guided hikes all winter long, sharing what makes our Great Lakes environment so unique.

For those interested in learning more, look for guided hikes through the Niagara Region Parks Interpretive Programs Office.

An ice volcano “erupts” (on left) at Fair Haven Beach State Park on Lake Ontario. Photo credit – Caroline Lamie, Office Manager/Senior Researcher/Tour & Event Coordinator, Fort Ontario State Historic Site

Cover shot – Ice Volcanoes in 2021 at Evangola State Park. All photos NYS Parks unless otherwise noted.

Post by Matt Nusstein, Environmental Educator, Niagara Region NYS Parks

Resources

Learn about ice volcanoes on the the Keweenaw Peninsula of Lake Superior.

Learn about the presence of Cryovolcanism in the Solar System in this report from the BBC.

Learn about other Great Lakes wonders to look for at NYS Parks in previous Parks Blog posts.

Evangola State Park: Lake Erie’s Winter Playground!

Along the shores of Lake Erie, Evangola State Park becomes a winter sports mecca as the lake’s famous lake-effect snowstorms blanket the park! Lake-effect snow occurs when cold, Canadian air moves across Lake Erie evaporating its open waters and causing intense, local snow bands which can drop one to two inches of snow per hour. … Continue reading Evangola State Park: Lake Erie’s Winter Playground!

Evangola State Park: Lake Erie’s Winter Playground!

Along the shores of Lake Erie, Evangola State Park becomes a winter sports mecca as the lake’s famous lake-effect snowstorms blanket the park! Lake-effect snow occurs when cold, Canadian air moves across Lake Erie evaporating its open waters and causing intense, local snow bands which can drop one to two inches of snow per hour.

Burning calories while relieving stress, cross-country skiing is a popular activity on the parks peaceful and tranquil trails.

ForestTrail
An unbroken forested ski trail at Evangola.

DistantSkier
The only sound while skiing is the soft crunching of the snow as you glide through the woods.

Cross-country skiing is a wonderful way to connect to nature!

SnowyScene
Fresh snow clings onto the branches, enhancing the beauty of trees and shrubs.

Three major trail systems are avaliable at Evangola State Park. The Evangola Snowmobile Trail is located on the east side of the park and snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails are on the west side.

Many snowshoers and skiers utilize the 3.5 mile snowmobile trail since it is lightly used by snowmobilers. The trail is fairly flat and easy for beginners.

SnowmobileTrail
Evangola Snowmobile Trail.

The Evangola Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe trail is an easy two mile loop trail through forest and shrubby wetlands.The trail starts at the baseball field located on the west side of the park and goes right into the woods.

Skiers
Snowshoers head out on the trail.

With a variety of tracks along the way…….

Tracks
A skier discovers eastern coyote tracks.

A fun activity while skiing or snowshoeing is to investigate fresh animal tracks. The tracks left behind are a magical record of a nocturnal creature’s travel, allowing a glimpse into their secret lives.

DECTracks
Four toed animals include the fox, coyote and dogs. Raccoon prints have 5 clear toes. Deer tracks resemble a divided heart. Image from NYS Dept. of Conservation

Deer
White-tailed Deer are often seen crossing the trail, photo by Ed Conboy Jr.

PorchNC
A skier checks out the Evangola Nature Center. The nature center is open Memorial Day to Columbus Day and is sometimes used as a resting spot during winter sports programs.

Bench1
When the snow gets deeper and the world turns quiet…

The Niagara Region Interpretive Programs Office has free snowshoes to loan to adults and children and many people bring their own snowshoes. It is easy to learn snowshoeing and participants become proficient on their first winter snowshoe hike.

ForestToLake1
The “Forest to Lake” snowshoe hike traverses Evangola’ s forested trails……

ForestToLake2
….and ends with a majestic look at the ice formations of Lake Erie!

Stunning Ice Formations

A spectacular winter trail at Evangola is the “Rim Trail” along towering cliffs over Lake Erie, where you can see all the way to Canada on a clear day! But clear skies or cloudy, check out some of nature’s ice sculptures all along the shore.

IceFence1
Even the rim trail fence can bow with the weight of wind driven ice waves!

IceFence2
The “Rim Trail’s” chain link fence with ice.

RimTrail
A lone skier checks out the “Rim Trail” view. During winter, arctic waterfowl and even an occasional Snowy Owl can be seen. Some of the biggest Red Oak in the park also occur along this trail.

SunnyLake
A winter icescape along the rim trail.

IceVolcano
Lake Erie ice volcano vents can be seen from above along Evangola’ s “Rim Trail”.

CoveredBridge
Throughout Evangola’s winter trails there is plenty to see including the iconic “Scotty’s Covered Bridge”!

Sunset
Evangola Sunsets during winter can be spectacular too!

Winter is a great time to get outside and explore Evangola State Park. So, come join our outdoor snowshoe hikes and cross-country ski programs or get out on your own to enjoy the park’s “lake-effect” snow trails.

Post by Dave McQuay, Evangola State Park environmental educator