Yosemite Nature Notes – 9 – Frazil Ice

Yosemite Nature Notes – 9 – Frazil Ice

[Music] We’re on
Yosemite Creek below Lower
Yosemite Falls, it’s a cold early
April morning, and we’re watching the
frazil ice formation. Frazil ice are these small
crystals of frozen mist that forms in Upper Yosemite
Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls. The particles of ice wash down
the stream with the liquid water in a flurry, a slushy,
slurpee, goopy mass that in many cases
flows like lava. So if you can imagine in your
mind a giant slurpee machine that is putting out millions
of gallons of slurpee into Yosemite Creek, it’s amazing; it’s not snow,
it’s not ice, it’s something
in the middle and to watch it move underneath
Yosemite Creek Bridge is pretty incredible. This is one of the
more unique phenomenon that you’ll see
in Yosemite, if you’re lucky enough to be
here in March and April, which is the prime
season for this, but it’s an
amazing thing to watch something this
dynamic in Yosemite Creek. You see something that
the millions of visitors who come in the summertime never imagine
something like this. It behaves a little bit
like cement in some ways, where it stops and it forms
kind of a stationary piece and then the flowing pieces go
past that stationary piece. The ice will
surge into place and with enough
thickness it stops and the creek will flow
a different direction. The water will drain out of
where it has just deposited it, leaving this, what
looks like snow, but again, it’s soft,
it’s unconsolidated, you would plunge
right into that. Now we see this
dynamic change as the frazil ice has
built up its own levy and caused the channel to clog
up and it’s coming toward us, we’re going to have to
be ready to move here, as the Yosemite Creek in all of
its might is coming toward us. But you’ll see this
lava flow effect, where the ice is
going to accumulate and build up
blockages that stop it from coming
in a certain direction. It’s the full force
of Yosemite Creek, which can be up to say a
100 cubic feet per second, when that is moving along in a
place where we don’t expect it, where engineering of building
roads and trails and bridges hasn’t anticipated this full flow of
the Yosemite Creek, has caused problems with damage to buildings
on the side of the creek and our footbridges, at least one has
been destroyed, one another was
displaced by frazil ice, picking it up off
of its footings and others have
been inundated by the frazil ice
deposits at times. So a lot of people that are
in the park in March and April will be walking along the
trail near Yosemite Creek and see piles of what
appears to be snow. If they took a little
more time to observe, they would notice the snow is
very selectively deposited, only in the stream
channels here, there is none up in the
woods off to the side. It’s the first thing
people think of, of course it looks
like snow, so… what else could it be? Here’s where frazil ice
becomes quite dangerous, because you can’t
tell how thick it is or how solid it is or how much
water is underneath. If you were to
walk out into this, you might make
it a few steps and you might plunge
through over your head into icy moving water underneath
this frazil ice deposit on top. Every winter at the base
of Upper Yosemite Fall, a big conical mound of
ice and snow develops. We call it the Ice
Cone or the Snow Cone and it can grow to be
hundreds of feet tall. The Snow Cone builds
up from falling water that freezes
while it’s falling. It freezes in a
couple of places; some freezes
at the bottom, some of it freezes on
the rock on either side of Upper Yosemite Falls, when the sun comes around during
the late part of the morning, it starts to
loosen that ice and it falls and builds
up onto the Snow Cone too. And you can hear them
throughout the Valley, and it’s pretty amazing
how loud those ice sheets can be when they
come crashing down. There is a
persistent myth that directly connects the
Snow Cone’s disappearance to the apparition of our
frazil ice deposits. There is not a
direct connection. This is not
the Snow Cone we see lying on the floor of
Yosemite Valley washed out. The Snow Cone gradually melts
away as temperature warms up. As temperature
warms up, the volume in Yosemite
Creek increases, but the
subfreezing nights will turn some portion
of Yosemite Falls to ice that flows in the liquid
water and the frazil ice, as we call it, is only indirectly
connected to the Snow Cone. I do have heard people
refer to frazil ice as the Snow
Cone breaking up, but if that
were the case, then these other places where
it exists in Yosemite Valley, that wouldn’t be true. I’ve also observed it
at Royal Arches Cascade and I do know that it
happens at Ribbon Creek, also over at Bridalveil
Falls and Salmon Creek. This is a marker for many
of us in Yosemite Valley when the frazil ice flows, it means that
springtime is here, where the snowmelt
is increasing, but we still have subfreezing
temperatures at night, so yeah, it is very much
a marker of the season. You won’t see
this in June, you won’t see
this in October, you’ll only see it in March
and usually in April. Well, Yosemite gets close to
4 million visitors a year and the vast majority
of those visitors come in June,
July, and August, so they’re here in
the summer months. And I think that a lot
of people are missing some of the magical events
that happen in the wintertime. For example, Horsetail Falls, it looks like a glowing
fire fall in February, and the Snow Cone at the
base of Upper Yosemite Fall, you’re just not going to see
that in June, July, and August. And the fact that
frazil ice is flowing a lot of times in spring
is pretty incredible. So I think that
Yosemite in late winter and early spring holds a lot of very special
and unique natural phenomenon and that more people would
probably come here in winter if they just knew that they
could experience these things.

72 thoughts on “Yosemite Nature Notes – 9 – Frazil Ice

  1. قسم شوي واصيح ابغا انط فيها واكل الثلج
    لنا الجنه ان شالله

  2. lovely video – thanks for creating this – i enjoy listening to people who obviously know and love the world they work in. one day i will go to Yosemite, get me some frazil :p

  3. Although I can see the potential hazards, the frazil ice on the Yosemite Stream and the "snow cone" under Yosemite Falls are a source of beauty and wonder; it makes me want to visit the park in March. I have fallen through ice up to my hip while photographing along the Great Salt Lake in winter. You have to be extremely careful around frozen waterways.

  4. Excellent video quality, composition, and narration, but the choice of typography for, "Yosemite Nature Notes" is weak. Needs more thought.

  5. I am so Amazed at this Cold Experience.  I never knew Frazil Ice existed.  I am so ' Learning ' right now, and to think this happens in the late of Winter.  It's funny, because the Lady Ranger said that it was not Snow or Ice, it's something in between;…. it's a Slurrpy.  Let's call it;  " Yosemite Slurrpy ".  Just think how much money we could make on the side, when we are visiting Yosemite on vacation.  Incredible to see that all of this ' Slurrpy ' stuff only takes place in a flowing Creek pathway.  Also, the other Ranger called this, White Stuff,  small " Frozen Crystal Mist ".  The sad part about this incredible and amazing Yosemite feature is that once Summer arrives;….. the Slurrpy Fun is done with and over.    So, one thing for sure about this surprising  Icee Thing, is that, is that during the Summer months, you can go to Seven Eleven ( 7 / 11 ) and buy yourself a " Frozen Crystal Mist ' with several Fruit colors, because Yosemite only have ' White '.  Well,  Thank Heaven for 7 /11, they can make it possible when Yosemite can't make it Possible.  And as You know, … With God, All Things Are Possible !       p.s.  Yosemite doesn't charge for their Slurrpy, only  7 / 11     ….    Matthew 19:26

  6. Yosemite is so beautiful all around the year. Everytime of the year it carries an unique beauty that you can't see another time of the year. I think I have been to Yosemite during almost every season, though I have missed the Frazil Ice.

  7. Any recommendations and advice on visiting Yosemite at the end of March this year. I want to plan a trip but the snow and weather is scaring some of my friends away from wanting to visit at Thai time of year.

  8. That is so beautiful. The shot at 0:06 with the huge tree trunks also took me by surprise. This video alone made Yosemite one of my highest items on places to visit. I would just giggle and be in tears the whole time. Even though I'm from Norway and we have some of (IMO) the prettiest landscapes in the world, it's just not like this. I have to experience it for myself in it's true nature sometime.

  9. If you think you are alone, you're not. The area is always teeming with creatures who just show up and I'm not talking about the animals. You could be in the middle of nowhere and a person pops up. Stay safe, be aware. It is beautiful, just like the pictures. Be bear aware, especially the mom and cubs crossing the road. It happens and a-lot. +++++++++++++++Don't mess with Mother Nature.+++++++++++++++++++++

  10. Really well done video. Nice explanation of the dynamics. Nice camerawork… I especially liked the time lapse at 6:17.

  11. I was there Sunday and saw the snow cone…all you visitors to my area are so lucky you went that day. Lately Yosemite has been so dry and it was amazing this year

  12. It looks beautiful in Yosemite, but not as a surprise Arctic weather front in the middle of Spring April surprise. Yes, I know EXACTLY what that slush, is, looks like up close and feels like when rain quickly finds itself in a late April rapid temp drop and one finds themselves driving in a huge7-Eleven slurpee machine of rain turned snowy day. April 14, 2019 Upper Middle U.S. was hit hard with the slush. When it hits your face it stings. Try shoveling it and the water makes it heavier than snow. I love nature.🤗

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