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Do waterfalls freeze?

Heymatt:

With all the snow back East, I was wondering if any of the waterfalls freeze when the rivers freeze. Or is moving water not likely to freeze.

— No name please, via email

Oh, yeah. The East Coast branch of the research elf family is having a time. They’re on stilts with snowshoes on the bottom and little floppy Jack in the Box antenna heads on their beanies so they can be located if they blunder into a drift. They keep calling here. We know they want to come visit, so we pretend we’re not home. When they’re here, all they do is complain about the pizza, anyway.

But I’m sure somewhere back there there are a few frozen waterfalls. Niagara Falls has frozen, so anything is possible. Moving water can freeze if conditions are right. First we need sub-freezing temps. Below 32˚ Fahrenheit. We need to slow down the water molecules, and cold will do that. Next, we need a “seed” water molecule, one stuck to a rock, maybe. If the water is cold and slow enough, a second water molecule will eventually stick to the first, then another, then another. Pretty soon, we’ve got ourselves some ice stuck to rock. A good cold wind and maybe a little snow to act as a seed would speed things up. To get a good waterfall freeze takes a lot of details to fall into place.

Waterfalls and rivers usually freeze from their edges toward the middle, though that depends a little on the contours of the rock face behind the falls. Our ice seed maybe gets sprayed by the falling water hitting rocks, and that fine layer of water begins to build up into a pyramid at the foot of the falls or an icicle at the top. If ice has slowed the river enough, we might end up with a solid wall of ice that looks like icicle wallpaper. Perhaps the river is still flowing under its outer shell of ice, and water could be spilling behind the icicle wall. But if it gets cold enough, the ice walls can get thick enough to climb. It’s rock climbers’ favorite winter sport — sticking crampons, ice axes, and rope bolts into a big berg and working their way to the top.

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Heymatt:

With all the snow back East, I was wondering if any of the waterfalls freeze when the rivers freeze. Or is moving water not likely to freeze.

— No name please, via email

Oh, yeah. The East Coast branch of the research elf family is having a time. They’re on stilts with snowshoes on the bottom and little floppy Jack in the Box antenna heads on their beanies so they can be located if they blunder into a drift. They keep calling here. We know they want to come visit, so we pretend we’re not home. When they’re here, all they do is complain about the pizza, anyway.

But I’m sure somewhere back there there are a few frozen waterfalls. Niagara Falls has frozen, so anything is possible. Moving water can freeze if conditions are right. First we need sub-freezing temps. Below 32˚ Fahrenheit. We need to slow down the water molecules, and cold will do that. Next, we need a “seed” water molecule, one stuck to a rock, maybe. If the water is cold and slow enough, a second water molecule will eventually stick to the first, then another, then another. Pretty soon, we’ve got ourselves some ice stuck to rock. A good cold wind and maybe a little snow to act as a seed would speed things up. To get a good waterfall freeze takes a lot of details to fall into place.

Waterfalls and rivers usually freeze from their edges toward the middle, though that depends a little on the contours of the rock face behind the falls. Our ice seed maybe gets sprayed by the falling water hitting rocks, and that fine layer of water begins to build up into a pyramid at the foot of the falls or an icicle at the top. If ice has slowed the river enough, we might end up with a solid wall of ice that looks like icicle wallpaper. Perhaps the river is still flowing under its outer shell of ice, and water could be spilling behind the icicle wall. But if it gets cold enough, the ice walls can get thick enough to climb. It’s rock climbers’ favorite winter sport — sticking crampons, ice axes, and rope bolts into a big berg and working their way to the top.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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