Resembling ‘ice pancakes’, a series of strange formations have appeared on Scotland’s River Bladnock following a sudden drop in UK temperatures in December.

Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI) project manager Callum Sinclair captured images of these strange discs on December 9, sharing them on Twitter and Facebook along with a video of them floating across the frozen river.

The recent drop in UK temperatures has left most of the country facing sub-freezing conditions, with December 12 the Kingdom’s coldest day since 2010. The lowest temperature was -17.3 degrees Celsius in Braemar, Scotland.

What exactly caused these “ice pancakes”?

The strange ‘ice pancakes’ are believed to have been caused by the sudden drop in temperature, and reports of similar occurrences on a river near Glasgow and in the Lake District, north-west England, suggest the formations could also appear in other parts of United Kingdom.

Each disk is between 20 and 200 centimeters, and this strange phenomenon is rarely seen in the Kingdom. Pancake ice usually forms in the Baltic Sea and around Antarctica, but can sometimes be found floating on the Great Lakes of the US and Canada.

How are discs formed?

Discs can form as a result of two very distinct sets of conditions. They can be created either by waves forming chunks of ice that bump into each other in rough waters, forming round edges and growing slowly. The raised edges of the ice pancake form when impinging waters join the edge of the already frozen disc and freeze to form an additional annular layer, he writes IFL Science.

In the calmer conditions of a river, however, they form when the foam on the surface of the river begins to freeze. The frozen masses begin to coalesce and be sucked into a vortex (or eddy), giving them these circular shapes. The discs continue to grow as smaller pieces of ice hit them and freeze on the outer edge.

Despite looking like solid, frozen discs, “pancakes” are often surprisingly soft and brittle. Under the right conditions, the discs will begin to coalesce, forming a sheet of ice, and when the water is agitated, this ice can bend to create ice ridges.

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