We can thank Mother Nature for this one!

Thanks to the sub-zero arctic blast that swept across Michigan and much of the Midwest conditions have been just right for this incredible weather phenomena to take place.

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Have you ever seen giant balls of ice or "pancake ice" on the shores of the Great Lakes?

How Do They Form?

With January historically being the coldest month for much of Michigan, it's not uncommon to see this bizarre occurrence this time of the year.

giant ice ball lake michigan
Michael Buck-Wood TV 8 via YouTube
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These ice balls are formed when the choppy waters near the shoreline break up a layer of slushy ice. The chunk of ice breaks off and then continues to amass more layers as temperatures continue to hang near freezing. The turbulent water rocks and rolls the chunk of ice into the ball-like shape that appears on the lake shore.

Essentially, think of Lake Michigan as a giant rock tumbler where giant block of ice are rolling around and becoming smoother and rounder. Get it?

The orbs of ice can grow to be the size of exercise balls, have been spotted everywhere from Chicago to the Michigan lakeshore to Finland!

What's 'Pancake Ice'?

Pancake ice lake michigan
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Pancake Ice on the other hand is a similar, scaled-down version of this phenomenon. Meteorologically speaking this type of ice is known as a "frazil pans" or "ice circles" and can form in conditions of high-wave activity as tiny bits of ice rotate in and collide against each other giving the ice its distinct flat "pancake" shape.

However, as beautiful and mesmerizing as these icy formations may be do not walk onto the ice to get a closer look; it's better to take your photos safely from shore.

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