Stories tagged ice

Researchers at Penn State have found a new species of bacteria in Greenland. Big whip – as long as it stays away from me, who cares? Well, this organism is ultra-small (I know what you’re thinking – aren’t bacteria pretty, um, small to begin with? Yeah, but these are super-duper small). It has also survived for 120 thousand years trapped without oxygen under two miles of ice. It may help scientists look for life on cold planets and moons elsewhere in our Solar System. (Which I think is a proper noun and therefore should be capitalized, though I may be mistaken.)

I think they said that this morning was the coldest of our winter so far in the Twin Cities, but probably not as cold as what this guy endured for 72 minutes.


Driving on ice: Swirling pools of carp on Lake Elysian have caused two trucks to break through thin ice, even though air temperatures were well below zero.Courtesy lisaschaos.
Driving on ice: Swirling pools of carp on Lake Elysian have caused two trucks to break through thin ice, even though air temperatures were well below zero.
Courtesy lisaschaos.

Just when you thought it might be save to drive on lake ice, watch out for the carp!

That's what happened to a couple of pick-up truck drivers in southern Minnesota this winter. After the temperatures finally went low enough last week to make ice thick enough to drive on Lake Elysian, they were thrown a curveball by those ugly creatures of the deep.

They cracked though the ice while driving about (one truck actually had to be towed out from the hole that it fell in) due to ice being abnormally thin for sub-zero weather. The cause? Swirling pools of carp in the shallow waters of that portion of the lake.

Earlier in the winter when the ice was clear visitors on Lake Elysian and other area lakes could see pools of carp churning up the waters under the surface. A Minnesota DNR official likened the carps’ swimming action as an agitator, which keeps the water moving and ice from forming.

Carp are also a fresh water fish species that will spend more time near the ice surface rather than staying near lake bottoms, helping continue the ice-thinning action.

The situation on Lake Elysian was kind of a perfect storm of conditions. The area where the trucks went through the ice is extremely shallow as well, helping add to the effect carp can have on thinning the ice. Local authorities are discouraging people from driving on the ice of Lake Elysian, which is located just west of Waterville, Minn., in Waseca County.

Now I have one more reason to detest carp!

An article in Science magazine notes two of Greenland's largest glaciers, which were thought to be shrinking, have recently stabilized and even increased in mass. Previous estimate of rapid melting were based on just a few observations over a short period of time; additional study showed that the melting period was something of an anomaly.

Astronomers at Cornell have determined that craters on the moon, once thought to hold ice, actually just have highly reflective dirt. This is a set back for space exploration plans, which had hoped to use the ice as a source of water and/or hydrogen for a future moon base.


Imagine that you are on a glacier and all around you thousands of black worms rise up out of the ice. It sounds like a scene from a science fiction movie, but it isn't. The worms are ice worms, and they're real.

Ice worms are extremophiles, animals that thrive in conditions that most creatures would not be able to survive, such as volcanos, glaciers and deep in the ocean. Ice worms live in glacial ice. They average around 1 cm long and 1 mm wide, and eat snow algae. Ice worms are the opposite of worms like earthworms, in that instead of becoming less active as temperature decreases, ice worms become more active with cooler temperatures. And there are a lot of them. One glacier can have an ice worm density of 2600 worms per square meter.

The ideal temperature for an ice worm is zero degrees Celsius, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This ability of ice worms to thrive in such extreme temperatures is the focus of a three year $214,206 NASA grant. Researchers hope ice worms can help unlock the secrets of how life might survive on distant ice worlds such as Europa.

Ice worms actually disintegrate through the process of autolysis when they are exposed to temperatures greater than 5 degrees Celsius. (Autolysis in cell biology refers to the destruction of a cell by its own digestive enzymes.) With the glaciers that are the only habitat for these organisms slowly melting due to global warming, ice worms are losing their habitat. If you consider that there are over 7 billion worms in one glacier, their impact on ecologies that are influenced by the glaciers must be significant, both in terms of biomass and in terms of nutrient processing. There is a lot more to learn about these organisms, and the role they play in the ecosystem.

For a time ice worms were believed to be mythical creatures — there is even an amusing poem that features the ice worm. I never knew these things existed — pretty amazing worm, I think.


Saturn's moon Titan is the only satellite (moon) in our solar system that has a dense atmosphere. Nitrogen is the main component of this atmosphere and methane the second most important. The Cassini spacecraft photographed Titan as it passed by on October 26, 2004. Later analyses of the images revealed a cryovolcano that spews ice instead of lava. This finding is reported by Christopher Sotin and associates at Universite de Nantes and the Universite de Paris-Sud in France and other institutions in Germany, Italy, and the USA (Arizona, California, Colorado, New York, Washington). This giant ice volcano may also release methane into the atmosphere; however, the images show that a widespread methane ocean does not exist. Because Titan's atmosphere is similar to that of Earth, scientists are studying Titan for clues to the origin of life.