An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Frost Formations

1-28-14  frost crystals 058When frozen water vapor is deposited in the form of crystals, we call it frost. Many windows have been etched upon by “fern frost” or “ice flowers” recently, due to the cold temperatures we’ve been experiencing. When moist, heated indoor heat hits cold window glass, water vapor condenses on the glass, forming intricate patterns. The intricacy is affected by the surface of the glass, as dust and scratches affect the shape of the crystals.

Equally beautiful frost structures are created outdoors and are referred to as hoar frost. White ice crystals are deposited on exposed surfaces such as ice that are colder than the surrounding air. Often this type of surface hoar frost resembles tiny ferns that vary in size, depending upon the amount of time they’ve been forming and the amount of water vapor in the air.

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2 responses


    I’ve noticed some especially beautiful patterns on the car windshield when the night has been only a little below freezing for a sustained period. I am wondering if the “slow freeze” is responsible for the intricacy of the pattern.

    January 28, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    • That seems like a plausible explanation, Elizabeth!

      January 29, 2014 at 1:04 am

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