Ice shelves form along shores of Lake Erie

While interesting to observe, they aren't safe to walk on.

Ice shelves have been reported along Lake Erie following several days of cold and stormy weather.

Photos and videos were circulated on Twitter Thursday, showing the formations underneath a fiery sky.

What are ice shelves?

Ice shelves form when strong winds push the water in the Great Lakes ashore, where it freezes on impact. Repeat the process a few times, and you get a shelf that builds up layer by layer.

"Ice shelves protect the shorelines from erosion, but are also very dangerous since they are not solid structures," The Weather Network meteorologist Melinda Singh said in January 2022.

"Many ice shelves are hollow underneath and tend to form on the lake itself. It is very unsafe to walk on because you could step on a thin patch and fall right into the water."

That's right - looks are deceiving. What looks like strong and solid ice has nothing propping it up underneath, and they contain many holes -- also referred to as ice volcanoes, which form on the edges of ice shelves, explains The Weather Network meteorologist Matt Grinter.

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"As waves hit the leading edge, it carves through the ice, ejecting water upwards into the air. As this process continues, the ejected water continuously freezes, growing the ice volcano larger with each 'eruption.'"

In other words, they're best admired from a safe distance because, as we say every year - no ice is safe ice.

Total ice cover over the Great Lakes currently sits at around 6.4 per cent - a figure slightly higher than usual and likely due to the recent cold snap that occurred in the days leading up to Christmas.

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With files from Nathan Howes, a digital journalist at The Weather Network.