Waves of snowballs. This was one of the most awesome natural events I have ever seen!Posted by Stone Point Studio on Tuesday, December 29, 2015
What you're seeing here is not the aftermath of a massive snowball fight gone awry. Thousands of snowballs were recently witnessed bobbing amongst the waves of Lake Sebago in Maine, apparently a rare natural phenomenon, according to experts.
The slushy spheres were captured on the video above by land art and sculpture artist David Allen of Stone Point Studio. Ever since the video was posted to the studio's Facebook page, it has garnered quite a craze on the Internet. It's easy to see why: the jouncing balls are mesmerizing to watch, as well as something of a natural oddity.
Part of what makes the phenomenon so unusual is that the lake was not covered in ice, so the balls couldn't have formed from battered surface ice. Where did they come from then?
Allen was able to fish out several of the snowballs and discovered that they were quite slushy, not well-packed. It turns out that a sudden cold snap had recently occurred in the area, which had brought some freezing rain and sleet.
The artist speculated on how they may have formed on his Facebook page: "The area where this was shot had a small stone jetty that acted as a catch and prevented the balls from continuing on down the shoreline. It seems to me, that this had a lot to do with the snow from the storm somehow accumulating in this way, in this very particular spot. My best guess, was that it was SO cold and windy, that when the snow hit the water, it didn't melt, but instead, remained as slush on the surface. This slush then got stuck in this area, and through wave and wind action, turned into these very uniform balls."
Allen's account is probably close to what really happened. A similar process is responsible for peculiar ice boulders that sometimes form in Lake Michigan. Though the Lake Michigan balls are formed from sheets of surface ice, unlike the Maine snowballs, they are nevertheless shaped by tumbling waves that are generated by strong winds. It's therefore possible that the slushy Maine balls were created the same way, just from snow and freezing rain rather than from surface ice.
The clumped-up balls certainly make for a nice stockpile of artillery for a snowball fight, though any fight with these balls would probably devolve into a wet and sloppy affair.