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Anyone for ice pancakes up Dunbeath Strath?


By David G Scott

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It may not be on anyone's festive menu but plummeting temperatures around Dunbeath Strath have whipped up the recipe for a very unique and strange phenomenon – ice pancakes.

Cath Whittles from Roseleigh House in Latheronwheel was taking a stroll along the Strath on Monday when she observed strange circular formations of ice at the side of the river.

Ice pancakes are a relatively rare phenomenon that usually occur in very cold oceans and lakes. Pictures: Cath Whittles
Ice pancakes are a relatively rare phenomenon that usually occur in very cold oceans and lakes. Pictures: Cath Whittles

She sent across images she took of the frozen discs, resembling pancakes or lily pads, and wrote: "We were delighted to see these on the Dunbeath river yesterday while out for a walk and believe that they are quite unusual – needing the exactly right conditions in order to form. Thought you and your readers might be interested."

The weather warnings from the Met Office of snow and ice across the Highlands have helped concoct the ice pancake recipe.

Dozens of the icy discs lie at the side of Dunbeath Water near a bridge.
Dozens of the icy discs lie at the side of Dunbeath Water near a bridge.

The discs typically form in areas where there is some water movement and air temperatures just below freezing. They have also been observed in oceans where the pancakes can take on enormous proportions and individual slabs can ride over each other in a process called "rafting", according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Over time, the individual pancake ice slabs can freeze together to form a solid ice sheet.

Ice pancakes require very specific conditions to form and are most commonly found in the Baltic Sea and Canada.

They have also been observed on the River Dee, around the Brora area and along River Helmsdale in the last few years. In rivers they are created when foam floating on the surface freezes. These frozen chunks are then shaped by being rubbed against one another in eddies of water.

Discs vary in size from between eight and 80 inches and though they appear solid are often quite slushy and easy to break apart when lifted up.

The rare phenomenon can lead to many ice pancakes accumulating in areas where there is water movement and subzero temperatures. The icy discs have also been compared to lily pads.
The rare phenomenon can lead to many ice pancakes accumulating in areas where there is water movement and subzero temperatures. The icy discs have also been compared to lily pads.

Cath said she often likes to take walks in the area with her husband Keith, who runs Whittles Publishing in Dunbeath.

She said this afternoon: "We do a lot of walking and decided yesterday to go to Dunbeath as it was such a lovely day and only five minutes from home. We were glad we did."

A Met Office spokesperson describes the phenomenon as a very "unique spectacle".

The latest Met Office forecast says that "ice will form readily as temperatures quickly fall away rapidly" tonight and tomorrow so perhaps more pancakes will be on the menu up the Strath.

Two fresh yellow warnings for snow and ice issued in the Highlands by the Met Office


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