Monday, January 15, 2018

Episode 403 (1-15-18): At the Freezing Point

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:50).

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 1-12-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of January 15, 2018.

SOUND – ~5 sec

This week, those sounds of ice recorded recently on Claytor Lake in Pulaski County, Va., open a freezing-water episode written for Virginia science students in early elementary school, that is, about kindergarten to third grade.

You’re about to hear two kinds of mystery sounds.  When you do, see if you can answer this riddle: How are the two kinds of sounds the same, but also different? Here are the sounds.

SOUNDS – ~9 sec

If you guessed that both sounds were water being put into a glass, you’re right!  But the first sound was water as a liquid, while the second was ice, or water frozen into a solid.

Now here are two more kinds of mystery sounds.  Try again to guess what they are.

SOUNDS – ~7 sec

That was the sound of liquid water flowing in a creek, followed by pieces of ice on the creek’s edge breaking off and splashing into the flowing water.  Just like a freezer can turn liquid household water into ice cubes, winter weather can often stay below 32 degrees Fahrenheit long enough to freeze some of the water on land or in a pond, creek, river, or even the ocean.  And there are many words for different kinds of ice in those places, like anchor ice, flake ice, needle ice, pancake ice, and sea ice.

Let’s try one more pair of mystery sounds, this time about ice safety.

SOUND – ~6 sec

Any guesses about what you heard?   The first was small rocks bouncing on an ice-covered pond, but the second was that pond’s ice breaking and sinking.  That’s a reminder that thin ice can hold pebbles, but ice has to be solid and at least about four inches thick to hold people.   So never go out on ice-covered water alone and not unless a grown-up checks it first.  You can still have fun on the bank, seeing how far a pebble can bounce!

SOUND – ~3 sec – Pebbles bouncing on ice-covered pond.

We close with a freezing-water question for you to answer. All living things have water on their inside. How come the water inside animals that stay outside during winter usually doesn’t freeze? Good luck finding some answers, and here are three hints: coverings, caves, and natural chemicals inside cells.

[Here are three possible answers, not included in the audio.
1) Animals that generate their own heat—birds and mammals—have fur, feathers, or other coverings to hold in heat (like people have clothes).
2) Many animals can move away from freezing temperature through long-range migration or by finding more protected areas—such as caves or going underground—to spend the winter.
3) The water-based cellular fluids inside many living things contain natural anti-freeze constituents that prevent ice damage to the fluids.  See the Sources section below to get more information on this topic.]


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.   Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This episode is an revised re-do of Episode 249, 1-19-15; that episode has been archived.

The Claytor Lake ice sounds were recorded at the Sloan Creek inlet of Claytor Lake near Draper in Pulaski County, Va., on January 6, 2018.

The stream ice sounds in this episode were recorded at Toms Creek in Heritage Park in Blacksburg, Va., on January 11, 2015.

The sounds of pebbles bouncing on an ice-covered pond and the sound of thin ice breaking were recorded at the Heritage Park pond in Blacksburg, Va., on December 28, 2012, and January 13, 2013.  Thanks to passer-by Sam for help in recording the sounds of rocks bouncing on ice.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at

Ice on Claytor Lake in Pulaski County, Va., January 6, 2018.
Varied patterns in ice formed on a shallow drainage channel in Heritage Park, Blacksburg, Va., January 11, 2015.
Air pockets under ice on a shallow drainage channel in Heritage Park, Blacksburg, Va., January 11, 2015.
Frost on the ground in Heritage Park in Blacksburg, Va., January 14, 2018.
Ice on a seasonal pond at Heritage Park in Blacksburg, Va., January 14, 2018.
Ice on Toms Creek at Heritage Park in Blacksburg, Va., January 14, 2018.

American Museum of Natural History, ‘Three Phases of Water,” online at

M. W. Buck, Where They Go in Winter, by Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tenn., 1968.

Iowa State University, “How Woody Plants Survive Extreme Cold,” Mar. 1, 1996, online at

Lake Superior-Duluth, “Anchor Ice,” online at; and “Ice Terminology,” online at

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, “Ice Safety,” online at

Dan Tinker, “These Animals Don’t Care That It’s Freezing Outside,” 12/14/13, National Wildlife Federation Blog, online at, Living organisms need antifreeze to survive in the cold,” 2/18/13, online at; and “Why fish don't freeze in the Arctic Ocean,” 8/25/10, online at

Brian Rohrig, “Chilling Out, Warming Up: How Animals Survive Temperature Extremes,” ChemMatters Online Oct.-Nov. 2013 (American Chemical Society), online at, “Kindergarten Science Vocabulary,” online at; “First Grade Science Vocabulary,” online at; “Second Grade Science Vocabulary,” online at; and “Third Grade Science Vocabulary,” online at   (The site also has vocabulary for other grade levels and other subjects.)

Sarah Zielinski, “Eight ways that animals survive the winter,” Science News (Society for Science & the Public), Jan. 22, 2014, online at

For More Information about Ice Sounds

NPR’s Skunk Bear (science channel on YouTube), “The Star Wars Sound Of Singing Ice,” 3 min./3 sec. video online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above ( See the “Science” subject category for episodes on physical states of water, and the “Weather” subject category for episodes on frost, ice, or snow.

This week’s episode is the first in a series in 2018 on freezing water, designed for specific grade levels of Virginia science students. The episodes in the series are as follows:
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th grade through 8th grade;
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school;
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.

Following are links to previous Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade;
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten;
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade;
Episode 332, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.


This episode may help with the following Virginia’s 2010 Science SOLs:

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme
1.7 – changes in temperature, light, and precipitation affect plants and animals, including humans.
2.7 – Weather and seasonal changes affecting plants and animals.
3.9 – Water cycle, including sources of water, energy driving water cycle, water essential for living things, and water limitations and conservation.

Grades K-6 Life Processes Theme
K.7 – basic needs and processes of plants and animals.
1.5 - animals’ basic needs and distinguishing characteristics.
2.4 - life cycles.
3.4 - behavioral and physiological adaptations.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 - living things as part of a system, including habitats.

Grades K-6 Matter Theme
K.5 – water properties, including flowing, objects floating or sinking, and water occurring in different phases.
2.3 – properties of solids, liquids, and gases.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at