The Turning Year Rimes With Woodland Beauty

The first week of 2021 was trying to tell us something wonderful is afoot, right?

As the calendar turned its page on a challenging year, ice crystals transformed most of Wisconsin into a gallery of gorgeousness.

Although similar to the more frequent “hoar frost” that sporadically paints Wisconsin’s winter outdoors, this is a very special sort of ice, called “rime ice,” which occurs when supercooled water in the form of fog freezes and then attaches to exposed surfaces—unlike hoar frost, which forms when humid air skips the droplet phase and crystalizes directly on surfaces like grass, brush and tree limbs, and anything, really. Due to several consecutive days and nights of stalled, weak, humid low-pressure systems, the fog hung around much longer than normal, and continued to layer crystals on crystals to create Galleria Wisconsin!

Rime ice is classified in two kinds, soft and hard, which are largely the results of wind, or lack thereof. Hard rime ice is more dense—occurring when winds are stronger—and soft rime ice is more feathery. They both add up to spectacular, wintery Wisconsin woodland scenery.

(Images are by MWW staff, taken in Sauk and Jackson Counties.)