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Mysterious giant ice balls discovered on Swedish coastline

David Landes · 5 Jan 2010, 14:59

Published: 05 Jan 2010 14:59 GMT+01:00

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A week before Christmas, Magnus Bladh of the Ottenby bird station, located on Öland’s southern cape, was strolling along the beach with a colleague when he saw something he’d never seen before.

“Temperatures were below freezing and there was a light wind, but it was very cold! In the seaweed we noticed at least 200 large ice balls,” he said in a report to Swedish meteorological agency SMHI.

“The balls varied in size but the biggest ones were quite large, some larger than a football.”

What mystified Bladh was that the balls were resting on the west side of a bed of seaweed, even though the prevailing winds were from the east.

When Bladh and his colleagues later broke open one of the ice balls, they discovered that it consisted of a 2 to 5 centimetre thick shell of ice, which covered a core of soft, wet snow.

According to SMHI, the ice balls likely form when rolls of light snow are blown from the shore into water which is at or just below freezing, but fails to form uniform ice due to strong winds.

The rolls of snow are then tossed about in the chilly waters, where wave action eventually shapes them into balls of ice.

"It's hard to say just how common ice balls are, since we are reliant on witness reports," SMHI spokeswoman Alexandra Ohlsson told The Local.

A review by SMHI of weather conditions on southern Öland in the days leading up to Bladh’s ice ball discovery revealed that temperatures in the area were generally below freezing, with snowfall, and winds from the north and northeast averaging 50 kilometres per hour.

According to SMHI, it was possible that rolls of snow near the shore remained soft due to warmth emanating up from the ground, which could have then been blown into the water by the strong winds.

Story continues below…

Once formed, the balls likely came back to shore and, rather than floating out to open water, remained there due to a change in sea conditions in the days before the ice balls were discovered. Water levels sank several decimetres between December 17th and December 18th when Bladh and his colleagues found the ice balls lying on the shore.

Beside's Bladh's discovery, SMHI's website only mentions two other reported instances of ice balls being discovered in Sweden since the 1950s.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:49 January 5, 2010 by jose_s
ice balls found in scandinavia during one of the coldest winters in years...... how could that be?
18:46 January 5, 2010 by Beynch
Let's refer the matter to Al Gore. Maybe it's global warming?
21:21 January 5, 2010 by jose_s
i could use some global warming just about now... i'm freezing my ass off here!!
21:35 January 5, 2010 by MJdS
Al Gore´s global warming alert warns exactly about the collapse of the gulf current, and the risk of Northern Europe undergoing another ice age... has it begun?
21:53 January 5, 2010 by Rebel
Sweden has balls?
00:50 January 6, 2010 by AlbionKyle
It was remaining of a snowman massacre!
01:22 January 6, 2010 by jose_s
snowlocaust.... is still being denied by you know who... "never happened"
04:08 January 6, 2010 by warriorwithin
relax guys, It's just that personal sports gear of Swedish Thunder god ''Torr" that crashed down onto the earth.
04:35 January 6, 2010 by herringbreath
Torr has lost his marbles...uh-oh :0

se upp !!!
09:08 January 6, 2010 by CarlBlack
@ MJdS: The short-term temperature in Sweden depends largely on where the winds blows from and of course on pressure. To make any conclusions about climate from a short-term change of highly fluctuating weather is quite premature. As for the Gulf stream, there are probably many sensors in sea, which provide more reliable info about its speed.
09:18 January 6, 2010 by salalah
Really important news!!!

The seals are probably bowling with them...
09:49 January 6, 2010 by Pont-y-garreg
Grammar lesson.

"Water levels sunk several decimetres ..."

should either read:

Water levels sank...


Water levels had sunk...
11:34 January 6, 2010 by Beynch
Here's a grammar lesson for MJdS. Al Gore's fairy tales are a big fraud, and no one is listening. It is nothing more than a big liberal concoction designed to enhance government's influence in our lives on the road to serfdom.
12:35 January 6, 2010 by Davey-jo
Has somebody been castrating snowmen?
17:15 January 6, 2010 by Dinaricman
They are old german snowball bombs. Hitler invested heavily in them and he thought that they could turn the tide. Boy was he wrong.
03:50 January 9, 2010 by Lillemor Anderson
Ice balls are sign of severe wind chill.They are not smooth ,solid ice,but have a pebbly crust.When strong wind blows hunks of snow off trees and bushes on islands out onto water with white-caps,in the direction of the main land shore,then they aqua-plane along,and the mist and droplets torn off the white-caps freeze on them. When they hit a flat shore,they often roll quite a ways inland.
05:20 January 9, 2010 by randyt
Beynch said:

"Here's a grammar lesson for MJdS. Al Gore's fairy tales are a big fraud, and no one is listening. It is nothing more than a big liberal concoction designed to enhance government's influence in our lives on the road to serfdom."

Right NASA, NOAA, National Geographic, and 90% of all of the world's 'weather' scientist are liberals! Let us hope so because conservaitves are noted for sticking the heads either in the sand or up their own larger body orifice.
13:52 January 9, 2010 by canslgb1
Actually Beynch, it would appear you have unwittingly stumbled across the truth when you pointed out that NASA, NOAA, National Geographic and 90% of all the world's 'weather' scientists are liberals.

What surprises me is that this could possibly come as a surprise to you. We've known this all along and when e-mails are published showing collusion between said "experts" to "fix" the numbers - we the public are not surprised. It is like the umpire who gambles on the game AND makes the calls during the game. The outcome was set before the game began - he just has to make sure nobody gets wise to what he is doing.

What is sad however is that in light of evidence to the contrary, people like you continue to try to control the lives of those around you. It isn't about the science unfortunately, it is about control. We can correct the science but it is the faulty viewpoint which has driven bad science in the past that remains the problem for the future and continues to generate more chicken little sky-is-falling scenarios. There is nothing new under the sun.
21:07 January 26, 2010 by Investor612
The global warming/ climate change will cause the gulf stream to slow down and acuse cooling is a clever ruse. That way if it's warmer than average it's "climate change" and if it's colder than average it's "climate change" and it's all the fault of those damn Americans and their SUVs and pickup trucks.
09:56 September 15, 2010 by hebeangel
Welcome to fashionuggboots.You can contact me.
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