Phil's picture

Snowy loops in Heaton Woods

Observed: 21st December 2010 By: Phil
snowy loops in Heaton Woods

All through the wood the snow which had been resting along the branches had slipped underneath, forming these loops.
I wonder if this is rare as I had never seen it before.
Can anyone explain the phenomenon?


No identification made yet.

Species interactions

No interactions present.


Jonathan's picture

How very interesting and odd!

How very interesting and odd! Did you test any of them to see whether they would resist breaking? I wonder if there was something in them to hold them together. Spider silk maybe? Sounds very improbable, but so is this phenomenon.

University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)

Phil's picture

Snowy Loops

Thank you for your suggestion.

There were many hundreds, if not thosands, of examples throughout the wood, from short loops to these longer ones.

When I touched them they were dry and powdery, and fell to the ground at the lightest touch. I had expected them to be held together with firmer ice so was surprised.

There was no wind that day which maybe helps explain why the phenomenon was able to occur.

I have other photographs of the loops if you are interested.

I have asked people from Sweden and Switzerland if they are familiar with these loops but they say not.


anonymous spotter's picture

Water is an amazing substance -

Just think of similar-molecular-weight substances like ammonia, methane, or carbon dioxide - they're all gases at room temperature.
Weak bonds between molecules make it behave like a polymer, and when you have partly-melted snow like this, the strength is impressive. (It's also why damp sand is firmer to walk on than when dry.)
This only partly explains it - as Jonathan suggests, there may be a "nucleus" such as spider silk involved here.
Whatever the science, it is unusual and beautiful!

jhn7's picture

What an eerie and delicate scene!

A stunning photo, I love the tinge of amber colour of the sky in the background. The science may be mystifying but the location shivers the imagination.

Certificate in Contemporary Science (Open)

Phil's picture

Snowy Loops

Thank you for your kind comment - much appreciated, especially with regard to the photo!


jhn7's picture

Another example

I showed my husband this photo and he had seen a similar effect in Esslingen in Germany last December. His photo shows the snow in two loops from a branch over a canal but it was the only place it had happened. So not much help in explaining the occurence but another example!

Certificate in Contemporary Science (Open)

Blewit Boy's picture

This looks.............

This looks like the Devil's work to me ;)