This winter in Kazakhstan, all the weather conditions have been met for the proper occurrence a breathtaking phenomenon: the formation of an ice tower 13.7 metres high, suddenly springing from a snowy plain of the Almaty Oblys. When the region spends the season covered by a thick layer of snow due to freezing temperatures, this cone which appears almost every year stands out in the landscape and has thus been immortalized by those curious people who came to admire it (see video at the top of the article).
A large and popular 'ice volcano'
In fact, this 'ice volcano,' as it has been dubbed by researchers, originates from an explosive underground hot spring. Water spreads through the atmosphere directly above and freezes as it falls to its surface. Gradually, an impressive hollow structure forms, a bit like regular rocky volcanoes—which are however built through very distinct phenomena. Thus, this is not the first time that this tower has come to life near the Kazakh village of Kegen. It has even become a real tourist destination.
On Earth... and even in space
The appearance of similar cones has been observed all over the world, such as in the United States, where they spring from the Great Lakes (Erie, Michigan, Ontario). At the edge of the expanse, under the ice cap, the water pushes up to create mounds of ice. As a bonus, water gushes out from the top of the dome, like a real volcanic eruption. But in space would be where the most sensational ice volcanoes are hiding. On Pluto, for example, scientists discovered one such giant nearly 4 kilometres high in 2016.