Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Icicles abound!

What: Winter always makes me remember how I forget about the winter when it's summer. It's hard reconciling the stunted, gnarled growth of the silver maples and white cedars that grow along the edge while sitting on the shore, my feet gently washed by the warm waters lapping up under a lazy summer sun.

But being out during the winter, when spray whipped against the low hanging leaves and branches and supersatured "foggy" air right above the lake freezes into tight icicles, gives clue as to the real limiting factors for planst growing next to the edge. The sacrifice for all that sun is a 2" rind of ice that snaps branches and scouring icy winds that peel away bark.

Icicles were also abundant on the underside of overhangs. The icicles below had formed on a rock that was about 10' off the shore. I assume they formed as snow melted from above and froze as it dripped off the rock (and out of the sun). Supersaturated air condensed onto the little icicles forming the weird lichen-like flakes clinging to the sides (a secondary feature).

Also of note was the stalagtites on the underbelly of the overthrust. The chunky yellowish rock is the much older Dunham dolostone perched atop the scraggly charcoal-colored Iberville Shale. Both weather pretty easily, but the dolostone, a lightly metamorphosed and then aged limestone, is filled with lots of cracks. Because it's a limestone (made of calcium carbonates), it weathers rather easily under the acidity of rain (if you drop hydrochloric acid on a freshly cut surface it will fizz as the acid reacts with calcium carbonate and releases carbon dioxide). In this section, the deep groves in the rock have been exaggerated by acidity over time and the icicles are forming under one of these fissures.

Along the edge of the cliffs the fissures become breaking points where larger rocks fracture off the cliff and plunge into the water. A dramatic event, to be sure, as the more crumbly shale beneath erodes faster, so the dolostone plummets rather than roles to its resting place in the lake. The picture also shows pretty straight geometric lines. The fractures are older than the erosion by acidity, which just expedites the fracturing process. And in places more distant from the cliffes, the fissures form small to occasionally large caverns, called karst topography. Many of the caves in Vermont are located in these calcium-rich, or calcareous, bedrocks. 

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