After many long years of research, scientists finally solve the mystery of hair ice, an amazingly beautiful frozen cotton candy-like structure that can be found in the woods.
As you can see in the picture, hair ice is a collection of very thin ice follicles, that are less than a millimeter wide, that has been found in forests on damp wood. The mysterious structure was discovered back in 1918, by geophysicist Alfred Wegener, who hypothesized that the cause of this phenomenon is related to a certain species of fungus that enables the hair ice to grow out so thin, because he observed a mycelium coating on the fine ice particles, which linked it specifically to fungi.
It has been quite a lucrative task for scientists to conduct their research on this particular phenomenon along the years, as hair ice is not exactly a common sight, because it requires a set of highly specific conditions to develop successfully. It usually develops on damp wood, but it requires a certain temperature an a certain type of humidity to thrive.
Almost 100 years after its discovery, scientists have succeeded in confirming Wegener’s fungus theory and have even managed to identify the exact species of fungus that causes this beautiful ice formation. Gerhart Wagner, a researcher from Sweden has proven that the hair ice does not form in the absence of fungus by applying a fungicide on the wood samples.
Then, a team of Swiss and German researchers have identified Exidiopsis effusa to be the species responsible for the hair ice and they have revealed that the role of the fungus is to alter the shape of the ice that is formed on the wood. They have utilized state of the art technology to pinpoint the exact species.
“The same amount of ice is produced on wood with or without fungal activity, but without this activity the ice forms a crust-like structure,” said University of Bern researcher Christian Mätzler, one of the members of the research team.
Their study was recently published in the scientific journal Biogeosciences. With the mystery of the hair ice finally solved, further research can now be conducted on this species of fungus, in order to determine the extent of its hair-like ice particle producing properties.
One thing remains clear though and that is that we will certainly be hearing more about hair ice in the future, as it is not only a miracle of nature, but a very interesting phenomenon altogether.
Image Source: sciencedaily