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I don't know what this YouTube video shows, but it appears to be half glacier and half "the blob." It almost appears to be "growing" although I assume it's being pushed somehow.

Can someone tell me what this is called, what causes it, and how common it is?

Warning: Strong language in the video.

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This phenomenon goes by a number of names: ice heave, ice shove, ice creep, ice tsunami, and I'm sure there are others. It is a consequence of the spring ice breakup coupled with strong sustaining winds on large northern lakes.

The warming spring weather melts the ice close to shore first, making the ice on the lake free-floating. The ice in the middle of the lake can still be close to a meter thick. Winds jostle the ice around, breaking it into chunks. With strong sustaining winds, the ice moves toward the downwind shore. With even stronger sustaining winds, the shoreline is not enough to stop the ice from moving onshore. The ice from further out (and this ice can be very thick) pushes the ice ashore, sometimes bulldozing trees and buildings.

Here's a playlist of 19 youtube videos that portray this phenomenon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EyfEDKWscg&list=PLPHgakWET6JeATJ1duoGkYItCvfPl26FU . At 32 seconds into the fifth video in the playlist you can see how thick some of the slabs of ice are.

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It's called ice shove. Ice on the lake melts whiles the wind push and pile the thin sheets ashore. I don't know how common it is but I've seen it in much smaller scale in European lakes. However, this occasion made it to the news. It does indeed look rather spectacular!

The fresh water of the Great Lakes in combination with cold air often create beautiful and photogenic art.

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  • $\begingroup$ These are not thin sheets of ice. This is the spring breakup of ice that was formerly thick enough to support cars, pickups, and even larger vehicles. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen May 14 '15 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ Answer updated to clarify and added the term for it. $\endgroup$ – Tactopoda May 14 '15 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ You mean you completely changed your answer from an incorrect answer to a correct answer after seeing my answer. That's not good. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen May 14 '15 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ I added the English name for it, credited you in the edit, upwoted your answer and also clarified that it can be caused by spring break up. The ice on this footage locked very thin, but yes, it might have been thick. The main point is that it's the combination of relatively cold air and fresh water that results in these spectacular phenomenon. Keep up the good work! $\endgroup$ – Tactopoda May 14 '15 at 15:47

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