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1-min read

Scientists Finally Confirm the Presence of 'Mysterious' Hair Ice and How it Develops

The unusual ice type germinates on dead wood of broad-leaf trees at below 0°C temperature, said a study published in Biogeoscience.

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Updated:December 17, 2019, 3:01 PM IST
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Scientists Finally Confirm the Presence of 'Mysterious' Hair Ice and How it Develops
( Image credits: Twitter /@ScienceAlert )

Putting rest to the mystery surrounding ‘hair ice’, scientists have now confirmed their existence. Hair ice is snow that looks like white strands of hair. They are brittle and extreme cold, like ice usually is.

The unusual ice type germinates on dead wood of broad-leaf trees at below 0°C temperature, said a study published in Biogeoscience.

The presence of hair ice was mooted around 100 years ago, although only in 2015 scientists corroborated the presence of species responsible for the germination of hair ice and had discovered the fungus responsible for the development of hair ice on moist wood.

The tests by the scientists revealed that the biological activity of a winter-active fungus is necessary in wood for the growth of hair ice, the report added.

One of the co-authors of the study, physicist Christian Matzler said, “The action of the fungus is to enable the ice to form thin hair — with a diameter of about 0.01 millimetres — and to keep this shape over many hours at temperatures close to 0°C.”

The research said wood could get enveloped in ice and this process is known as ‘ice segregation’.

The recent study is just an extension of the research carried out by German polar scientist Alfred Lothar Wegener. He, in 1918, had suggested the presence of hair ice first. And the scientists have just gone ahead with the experiment using deadwood.

The recent study is, however, yet to be fully completed, since it hasn’t been able to answer why hairQ ice grows on specific kind of dead wood and not on all types of dead wood.

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