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Tonight, T.E.P. and I were in the town centre and went down to the River Clyde to watch it freeze. It was really quite amazing; we happened to get to the riverside just at slack water (the Clyde is very much a tidal river, here) and could actually watch the flow of the water slow and stop, with formation of ice following really rather quickly. While the water was still flowing freely, you could see sheets of ice bumping into other sheets, and either sliding past them or over them; as T.E.P. said, it was plate tectonics in action.

The Clyde here runs in an artificial channel, exactly like quay walls; as such it flows fast and fairly deep, and doesn't freeze. But the weather lately has been the rare kind and level of cold that reminds you we're very slightly further north than Moscow, Gulf Stream notwithstanding, and tonight there were already large sheets of thin ice being carried on the tide. As the flow stopped you could actually see them thicken and solidify; it's very hard to describe but there was something about the way the reflections changed that made it clear that the ice was no longer flexing and flowing with the water. And this was very swiftly followed by ice forming in the now-still open areas. I have never watched open water freeze before my eyes; it was absolutely fascinating. I've seen puddles start to have the thick, gelid look to them, so I recognised that phase but after that little strands and crackles of ice started to form, exactly like frost on a window, and then no more open water.

There were a few moments of absolute silence but then there was the noise of ice crackling, and also of ice starting to crumple and crack against the bridge stanchions as some current resumed and pushed the ice forward. For a while there was a channel in the middle of the river where there was more movement and then that stopped; I think water was still flowing under the ice there, though. There were a couple of places where a small spearhead of ice was over-riding the sheet and leaving a channel of open water behind it. And there were small pieces of ice running along at speed under the main sheet; you could see them under the sheet in places, and also see them come out from under into the occasional open water pools that would open and then close or refreeze.

The amount of fascination and interest was far in excess of our cold tolerance, however, and eventually we (slowly and with frequent stops for distraction) started to make our way back home. One of the last things we saw as we did so was a formation of ice where several long ridges were running parallel to the bank, recording where open channels and spearheads had been; a sort of mountain range in miniature.

Amazing all round and T.E.P. gave me an icicle and some snow.

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Missing Opossum

April 2012

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