Winter Stone Skipping Splendors

Amaze your ears with magical sounds

Star Wars fans are in for a treat with the mystifying music ice makes when stones are skipped across a frozen lake. Pew! Pew! Pew! Not everyone is aware of this amazing phenomenon, and it’s something that really wows.

You might be wondering what causes the laser-like sounds. According to Weather Network meteorologist Kevin MacKay, ice is less dense than water and acts as a “highway for soundwaves” that are created when a stone hits the ice.

Another way to explain it is that because the water under the ice isn’t solid, the ice vibrates up and down, like a drumhead vibrating after being struck.

When a stone hits the ice, short and long sound wavelengths are created. Short wavelengths carry across the ice more quickly than long wavelengths. It is the difference between the wavelengths that creates the sound, the technical name for which is acoustic dispersion.

Look for a large lake to skip stones and hear the magic. Space exaggerates the gap between the wavelengths, and the more time soundwaves have to distance themselves, the more impressive the acoustic show will be.

There are also differences in the sounds based on the type of ice. Clear ice with non-snowy conditions creates higher pitched tunes. Snow ice formed after snow falls and freezes on a lake produces lower frequency sounds.

Travel Tip icon

Travel Tip
Don’t fall through the ice. According to researchers, if the Pew! Pew! Pew! noise sounds higher that the piano key E4, the ice isn’t safe to walk on.

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