“Frost Flowers” Chilly Work by Mother Nature
These beautiful and other-worldly photographs of ice were taken last year by University of Washington graduate student Jeff Bowman and his professor Jody Deming while they worked on a study combining oceanography, microbiology, and planetary sciences in the central Arctic Ocean as part of the Integrated Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program. Their single focus was the study of frost flowers, a strange phenomenon where frost grows from imperfections in the surface ice amid extreme sub-zero temperatures nearing -22C or -7.6F, forming spiky structures that have been found to house microorganisms.
Another type of Frost flower usually grows on a piece of water-logged wood, as shown in the pictures at right (taken by Nick Page; provided by Alan Rempel). It’s something of a rare find, meaning that conditions have to be just so before it will form.