How do you stimulate a regional tourist economy in the dead of a blizzard-battered winter? Simple: ice volcanoes!
The cone-shaped ice formations—known as cryovolcanoes in scientific circles—afford hardy winter adventurers with cozy, igloo-type shelter as they trek on the frozen surface of a body of water. And ice volcanoes are emerging as a key tourist draw on the frozen surface of the Great Lakes region this winter. Here's a video of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report on the phenomenon:
As the Journal Sentinel reports, many people are now scouring the bleak winterscape of the Great Lakes in February for an ice volcano of their very own. The paper reports that "winter enthusiasts" have been "flocking to Bradford Beach, the Doctors Park beach and other spots along the Lake Michigan shoreline since last week's blizzard to check out a bizarre lunar landscape of craters, boulders and rounded mounds carved from the shoreline ice shelf by wind and waves." (You can see additional photos of the formations here, courtesy of Milwaukee Journal photographer Gary Porter.)
"It's pretty cozy in here; I'm not going to lie," Marna Lamson of Milwaukee told the paper after she huddled inside one such formation for a while. "It's very sheltered from the elements. The bottom is snow and ice."
So what exactly is an ice volcano? According to the Weather Notebook's Byron Yeaton, they're "water-spouting ice cones" that form during the winter along the Great Lakes. Geologists at Michigan Technical University maintain a website chronicling the ice volcanoes along the shoreline of Lake Superior. Here's their own expert account of how ice volcanoes come into being: "Cones begin to form at the leading edge of the ice shelf as it builds out into the lake. When the waves, driven by strong onshore winds, feel bottom they build and break onto the ice shelf. After the ice shelf has built out, waves continue to travel underneath the ice and are forced up through cracks and previously formed cones."
Nor are the exotic cold-weather cones confined to our own humble planet. Space explorers have spotted ice volcanoes on several of the more icy moons in our solar system, including most recently on Saturn's Titan moon. Below is a video detailing the find by NASA's Cassini spacecraft: