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It's that time of year where you might actually see one of these in action.

11 shocking things that happen when it gets cold

Tuesday, January 19, 2016, 1:20 PM - The laws of physics do odd things when the temperature gets below zero and stays there.

We've already talked about five horrible things extreme cold does to the human body, but the deep freeze isn't all bad. At times, it can produce things of great beauty.

Here are 11 winter spectacles for you to watch out for now that the season is well and truly upon us.

1. Light pillars

Looking for all the world like otherworldly spotlights, light pillars aren't actually beams, but optical illusions.

Like sun dogs, which have been on full display on the Prairies, the pillars appear when high-altitude ice crystals scatter the light just right, usually when the sun is low in the sky.

2. Frozen lake bubbles

In Canada, these are most common in some lakes in Alberta, particularly Lake Abraham, where the above picture was shot (by photographer Callum Snape), although they have also been seen in Vermillion Lake and Lake Minnewanka.

They are unbelievably beautiful, but it's not a good idea to break one while you've got a lit match in your hand.

Those bubbles aren't oxygen -- they're methane, given off by bacteria breaking down dead animals and plant life that have sunk to the lake's bottom.

The Smithsonian says this happens relatively often in Arctic lakes, which has bad implications for climate change. With increasing average temperatures and decreasing permafrost, more of that methane is being released into the atmosphere, a big problem seeing as how it's a potent greenhouse gas.

3. Hair ice

Submitted by Anne, Burnaby, B.C.

If you keep your eyes peeled, you might spot hair ice during a winter walk through the forest.

It grows on rotten branches and looks like candy floss or hair. In reality, it's a fungus that develops during winter nights when the temperature hovers around the freezing mark.

It's somewhat uncommon so if you witness it, consider yourself lucky.

4. Floating frost flowers 

This phenomenon forms without the aid of plant life on lake and sea ice when it is well below zero, spiking outward from cracks and other imperfections in the ice.

Givre au lac de Saint-Point - img 09113.jpg
"Givre au lac de Saint-Point - img 09113" by Pmau - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Aside from looking like beautiful frozen blossoms, they're actually teeming with hardy microbes adapted to the extreme cold, according to researchers from the University of Washington. 

Study of them could give us an idea on how life can form in extreme conditions on other planets, and researchers have travelled to the far reaches of the Arctic and Antarctic in hopes of catching a glimpse of them.

5. Ice boulders

In January 2015, ice boulders weighing up to 50 pounds showed up on the shores of Sarnia, Ont. from Lake Huron. Ice boulders form when chunks of ice flow through waves created by strong winds.

Eventually, they take on a sphere-like shape.

6. Impromptu ice sculptures

Remember this unfortunate fellow?

The 24-year-old owner of the totally encased sedan up above did the right thing by leaving his car parked overnight in Buffalo, New York, after going out with some friends, but Mother Nature rewarded him unjustly.

Aside from lake-effect snow, strong winds off the lake blew water vapour from rough surf onto his car, over and over again, with each layer freezing.

He did, in fact, eventually get it freed from its prison, but the phenomenon itself is common enough whenever cold lake water hits a solid surface in successive waves like that. Here's what it did to a lighthouse in Port Burwell, Ont.:

Image: Steve Boyd

7. Hot water turns to steam


We can't get enough of this stunning photo by Michael H. Davies, which was shot amid temperatures near -40°C in Pangnirtung, Nunavut.

Davies had a friend throw hot tea in the air to capture the incredible effect.

In extremely cold temperatures hot water freezes as soon as it makes contact with the cold air, creating the mist that frames the sunset in this spectacular shot. For more stunning Arctic photography, visit: www.michaelhdavies.com or www.flickr.com/photos/michaelhdavies

8. Radial icicles can grow out of hubcaps

Submitted by Greg Brooks, Larder Lake, Ontario


Slush, plus freezing temperatures, plus fast-spinning wheels can create strange patterns, like these radial icicles on the hubcap of this car.

9. Extremely cold temperatures can have a negative impact on wildlife

Submitted by Paul Oakley, Port Dalhousie, Ontario


In February 2014, an extended period of frigid temperatures had a devastating impact on some of Ontario's wildlife.

Paul Oakley was visiting swans in Port Dalhousie, Ontario when he came across something he'd never seen before: A swan with its bill completely encased in ice.

The bird didn't appear to be bothered, but Oakley alerted animal services.

"The swan is now doing well," Oakley told The Weather Network after authorities were able to make contact with the swan.

"The bill is free of ice. We fed [the swans] both a loaf of bread, they came right up to us. They are so beautiful. I check on them everyday."

If you spot an animal that appears to be injured or in need of assistance, contact the Ministry of Wildlife Management.

10. Crystal clear lakes can make it look like you're walking on water

A lack of snow in Manitoba combined with cool, calm nights, had people flocking to Clear Lake late last year.

The weather conditions helped to turn the water into a "see-through skating rink" that showcased the rocks, sand and fish below.

According to Richard Dupuis, the visitor experience manager at Riding Mountain National Park, this phenomenon that happens every five to 10 years in the area -- but it doesn't last.

"Wet snow ruins it all. This is the time to take advantage of it. I’m hoping for a brown Christmas," he told the Winnipeg Free Press at the time.

11. Ice rings can turn lakes into works of art 

In November 2014, Reddit user odstane shared some stunning images, featuring ice rings that naturally formed around a pond on the user's property.

The mysterious rings sparked a long online discussion about what caused them to form. 

"My guess is the different depths of water in the pond caused it to freeze in increments, the deeper the water the slower the freeze. But I am in no way an expert on this," Reddit user Rentalov said. 

"The photos are interesting for sure," Weather Network meteorologist Kelly Sonnenburg said.

"Personally, I've never seen anything like this in nature, and it would be difficult to say how the rings formed without having a look at the pond at the weather conditions present at the time of the freeze. Warm temperatures followed by a sudden drop may have caused the rock to hold on to some heat, like one Reddit user suggests. It looks like this one may be destined to remain a mystery." 

SOURCES: The Smithsonian | IGERT

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