10 Cool Things About IceBy Jack Frost, as told to Kate Hofmann and Kathy Kranking
Hey, Jack Frost here!
I know, you thought I was make-believe. But that’s me nipping at your nose. I’m just chillin’ out on a lovely winter day—my favorite kind of weather! I feel right at home with all this ice around. And I could give you hundreds of reasons why ice is nice. It looks like you’re shivering already, though, so let’s just go with my top 10.
1: ICE IS HOME.
How nice is ice? Just ask the polar bear mom and cub at left. Actually, they might tell you ice is more than just nice—they need it to survive. Polar bears, walruses, seals, and other animals depend on sea ice. Sea ice is frozen ocean water. It’s a place where animals can hunt, rest, give birth, or raise their young. Sea ice is important in another way, too. On its underside, tiny plant-like algae (AL-jee) grow. The algae are an important food for tiny creatures that bigger creatures feed on.
2: IT’S A DANCE FLOOR FOR PENGUIN PARTIES.
OK, the Adélie (uh-DAY-lee) penguins above aren’t really dancing. But it looks like a party to me! The birds are riding on a floating chunk of sea ice called a floe (FLOH). They’ve hopped aboard to play their version of hide-and-seek. Hiding, you ask? Indeed. Out of the water, they’re hidden from hungry leopard seals. And seeking is what they do when they get hungry—off they’ll dive to hunt down a fishy meal.
3: ICE IS A CRUISE SHIP FOR WILDLIFE.
Penguins aren’t the only animals to ride “floe ferries.” Seals, polar bears, and others also hitch rides on these floating ice chunks. For instance, walruses use their tusks to haul themselves up onto floes. Then they drift along from one buffet meal to the next. They’ll leave their “ship” just long enough to scarf up clams and crabs on the ocean bottom.
Ice can also move across the land, although it’s much slower than sea ice. That’s what a glacier (GLAY-shur) does. Keep reading to check it out.
4: GLACIERS ARE MIGHTY RIVERS OF ICE.
The glacier above is ice at its most powerful. Looks like a white river flowing down to the sea, doesn’t it? It is—a slow-motion, frozen one. High in those cold mountains, more snow falls in the winter than can melt in the summer. Over many years, layers and layers of snow pile up. Deep below the surface, the snow turns to ice. Then the heavy block of ice begins to slide slowly downhill.
Most glaciers move just a few hundred feet a year. But they do a lot of “redecorating” as they go. Over thousands of years, a glacier can carve out valleys, carry huge boulders hundreds of miles, and crush solid rock into millions of pieces. In fact, the dark stripes on the glacier above are made of ground-up rock.
5: YOU ONLY SEE THE “TIP OF THE ICEBERG.”
Look at that huge iceberg above! Wouldn’t you love to be on that boat, getting an up-close look at it? Well, here’s a cool surprise: As big as that massive berg seems, you would be looking at only a small part of it. That’s because most of a floating iceberg is below the water’s surface.
Bet you’re wondering where an iceberg comes from. Most are “born” from something even bigger: a glacier. When a moving glacier reaches the sea, chunks of it break off and crash into the water (above). That’s called calving. No, the new bergs don’t say “moo.” But they do make a thunderous boom! It’s an amazing thing to hear—and see.
6: THERE’S A LOT OF ICE IN EARTH.
Did you know that about 10 percent of the land on this planet is covered with ice? That’s more land than all the tropical rainforests in the world cover. All that ice might be hard to imagine. But you’d believe it in a hurry if you were plopped down in the middle of Antarctica. A huge ice sheet covers the entire continent. As far as you could see, everything would be frozen. And the ice under your feet could be more than two miles thick!
7: ICE KEEPS THE WHOLE EARTH COOL.
Would you believe that the ice and snow at the poles help keep the whole planet cool? Imagine walking barefoot on black pavement on a summer day. Eek—ouch—HOT! Dark colors absorb, or soak up, lots of heat. On the other hand, light colors bounce the sun’s rays right back up to the atmosphere. Ice and snow are very good at this. So the Earth’s ice is like a gigantic air conditioner. Cool, huh?
But as the world’s climate changes, the ice is melting, leaving behind the darker land or water beneath. That means more of the sun’s heat is being absorbed, which makes the Earth grow even warmer, faster.
8: ICE HOLDS CLUES TO THE PAST
Have you ever had a secret? Ice has secrets, too. When water freezes into ice, air bubbles get trapped inside. Inside those bubbles are clues about what the Earth’s atmosphere and climate were like when the ice first formed.
Deep in an ice sheet, ice can be thousands of years old. So the bubbles inside it are like time capsules from long, long ago. Scientists drill deep into the ice and carefully remove long sections called cores. The scientists will take this ice core back to a special refrigerated lab to discover its secrets.
9: ICE TAKES MANY FORMS.
I love ice. All kinds, everywhere. I know not everyone agrees with me. I guess slippery sidewalks and icy roads aren’t much fun for you. But I just love how ice adds a layer of sparkling beauty to anything it touches. And depending on temperature, wind, and other things, ice can come in some amazing formations.
You can see the beauty of ice in lots of places—even just by looking out your window on a frosty morning. I do hope you like all those feathery etchings I sometimes leave for you! (above) And check out the other cool formations on this page.
10: YOU CAN HAVE FUN ON ICE.
If you’re still not sure ice is nice, I know just what you need: a good game of hockey. See how much fun the kids above are having? Maybe figure-skating is more your style. Or ice-fishing. With any of these sports, you’ve gotta love ice. Don’t worry, you’ll be having such a good time that you’ll forget it’s cold!
Here’s another thing about ice. It can be really strong. In the photo above, a diver swims under a 3-foot-thick layer of ice that’s holding a heavy van. The ice is the frozen top of a lake in Russia that’s famous for its super-clear water. Check out the chart to see how much weight different thicknesses of ice can hold.
What? You say you just want a cup of steaming hot chocolate? Ugh. Not me, thanks. One refreshing lick of an icicle and I’ll be on my way. But if it gets cold where you live, you can make me very happy. Just promise you’ll get outside this winter and enjoy ice!