Ice breakup on the Hay River, NWT is very late this year – but today the UofA field team finally saw some signs of things getting started. In particular, breakup here usually gets going with the formation of little mini-jams, small ice accumulations that generate local water level fluctuations as they form. These water level fluctuations typically break off a bit more of the upstream ice, which then drifts down to join the accumulation, creating more water level fluctuations. This process occurs repeatedly, eventually leading to more substantial ice jams.
The water level fluctuations upstream of these small accumulations can be quite rapid – those at this site actually stranded some little fish briefly, as seen in the photo below. Fortunately, with a little help from the field team, they made it back to the river.
You can see more Hay River breakup photos at this link.
(These photos were taken by PhD student Jennifer Nafziger, UofA River Ice Research Group)
Note – to see a BBC video clip that describes our river ice research at Hay River (and some amazing footage of the 2009 breakup) click here. For those of you in the UK and EU – you can watch the same video clip on the Frozen Planet website.