Basic Geology Uncategorized

Guest Video: Why Does Ice Float?

When water freezes, it should be at its most dense and drop to the bottom like a rock. Instead, ice floats, and for a long time, scientists have not understood why that happens.


It takes a little science to see why this is a very good question instead of a no-brainer.

  • Matter gets denser as it cools down.
  • Light things float.
  • Dense things sink.

This is one reason why, for instance, hot magma rises through “cold” rock from a source of molten rock deep within Earth’s mantle. The hot stuff is more buoyant than the cold stuff.

To some extent water works this way, too (though at much lower temperatures, of course). Warm ocean currents circulate in the upper parts of the sea, above cold bottom currents.

When water freezes, it should be at its most dense and drop to the bottom like a rock.

Instead, ice floats.

Here’s a BBC presenter drawing magic circles in the air to show you why this happens.


Featured Image: Niekverlaan at Pixabay. Public domain.


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About BJ Deming

After getting an associate's degree in forestry, I studied geology as an undergraduate back in the 1980s but went into medical transcription instead. It just worked out better for me. The Internet renewed my interest in geoscience as a hobby, and when I retired in 2014, I decided to write a book about cat evolution. That started a new career for me (enormous fun but not self-supporting yet). Right now, besides blogging I am finishing up the first two books in a self-published ebook series about the cat family and its history. Thanks for your interest!

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