Monday, December 6, 2021

Episode 606 (12-6-21): At the Freezing Point

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:36).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
A Question about Freezing Water and Animals
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 12-3-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of December 6, 2021.  This revised episode from January 2018 is part of a series this year of winter-related episodes.

SOUND – ~8 sec

That’s the sound of ice on Claytor Lake in Pulaski County, Va., during a January day in 2018.  The sounds set the stage for 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 – ~10 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 – ~8 sec

Those were sounds 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 – ~7 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, and ice thickness can be different in different spots.  Ice is never 100-percent safe, according to natural resource experts from Minnesota, where they have plenty of experience with ice-covered water.  But even with thin ice, it’s safe—and fun—to stand on the bank and see how far a pebble can bounce!

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

We close with about 45 seconds of music for freezing water.  Here’s “Ice Dance,” by Torrin Hallett, a student at the Yale School of Music.

MUSIC – ~47 sec – instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this episode.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 408, 1-15-18.

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

The stream ice sounds 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.

“Ice Dance” is copyright 2020 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission.  Torrin is a 2018 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio; a 2020 graduate in Horn Performance from Manhattan School of Music in New York; and a 2021 graduate of the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver.  He is currently a graduate student at the Yale School of Music.  More information about Torrin is available online at  Thanks very much to Torrin for composing the piece especially for Virginia Water Radio.  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio in Episode 556, 12-21-20, on how organisms survive freezing temperatures.

Following are other music pieces composed by Torrin Hallett for Virginia Water Radio, with episodes featuring the music.

“A Little Fright Music” – used in Episode 548, 10-26-20, on water-related passages in fiction and non-fiction, for Halloween; and Episode 601, 10-31-21, connections among Halloween, water, and the human body.
“Beetle Ballet” – used in Episode 525, 5-18-20, on aquatic beetles.
“Chesapeake Bay Ballad” – used most recently in Episode 604, 11-22-21, on Canvasback ducks.
“Corona Cue” – used in Episode 517, 3-23-20, on the coronavirus pandemic.
“Flow Stopper” – used in Episode 599, 10-18-21, on “Imagine a Day Without Water.”
“Geese Piece” – used most recently in Episode 440, 10-1-18, on E-bird.
“Lizard Lied” – used in Episode 514, 3-2-20, on lizards.
“New Year’s Water” – used in Episode 349, 1-2-17, on the New Year.
“Rain Refrain” – used most recently in Episode 559, 1-11-21, on record rainfall in 2020.
“Runoff” – in Episode 585, 7-12-21 – on middle schoolers calling out stormwater-related water words.“Spider Strike” – used in Episode 523, 5-4-20, on fishing spiders.
“Tropical Tantrum” – used most recently in Episode 580, 6-7-21, on the 2021 Atlantic tropical storm season preview.
“Tundra Swan Song
– used in Episode 554, 12-7-20, on Tundra Swans.
“Turkey Tune” – used in Episode 343, 11-21-16, on the Wild Turkey. 

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.

Patterns in ice formed on a shallow drainage channel in Heritage Park, Blacksburg, Va., January 11, 2015

Air pockets under ice on a drainage channel in Heritage Park, Blacksburg, Va., January 11, 2015.

Thin ice on a pond in Heritage Park, Blacksburg, Va., December 9, 2021 (the ice was about 1/8 inch thick).


All living things have water on their inside.  So, if a wild animal is exposed to freezing temperatures in winter, why doesn’t the water inside its body freeze?

Here are two possible answers.  For more information, please see references in the Sources section below.

1.  Some animals—birds and mammals—can generate their own heat, and they have fur, feathers, or other coverings to hold in the heat (like people have clothes).  Body fat also helps hold in heat.

2.  In many living things—for example, certain fish and frogs—the water-based fluids inside cells contain biochemicals that act as natural anti-freeze, preventing ice formation and damage to the cells.


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

Margaret Waring Buck, Where They Go in Winter, Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tenn., 1968.

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

Lake Superior-Duluth, “Ice Terminology,” online at

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, “Ice Safety,” online at; see particularly “General Ice Thickness Guidelines,” online at

Dan Tinker, “These Animals Don’t Care That It’s Freezing Outside,” December 14, 2013, National Wildlife Federation Blog, online at, “Living organisms need antifreeze to survive in the cold,” February 18, 2013, online at; and “Why fish don't freeze in the Arctic Ocean,” August 25, 2010, 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), January 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 particularly the “Weather/Climate/Natural Disasters” subject categories.

Following are links to several other winter-related episodes, including episodes on some birds that reside in Virginia typically only in winter (listed separately).  Please note that some of these episodes are being redone in late 2021 and early 2022; in those cases, the respective links below will have information on the updated episodes.

Frost – Episode 597, 10-4-21.
Ice on ponds and lakes – Episode 404, 1-22-18 (especially for grades 4-8).
Ice on rivers – Episode 406, 2-5-18 (especially for middle school grades).
Polar Plunge® for Special Olympics – Episode 356, 2-20-17.
Snow physics and chemistry – Episode 407, 2-12-18 (especially for high school grades).
Snow, sleet, and freezing rain – Episode 461, 2-25-19.
Snow terms – Episode 300, 1-25-16.
Surviving freezing – Episode 556, 12-21-20.
Winter precipitation and water supplies – Episode 567, 3-8-21.
Winter weather preparedness – Episode 605, 11-29-21.
Water thermodynamics – Episode 195, 1-6-14.

Bird-related Episodes for Winter

Audubon Christmas Bird CountEpisode 294, 12-14-15.
American Avocet – Episode 543, 9-21-20.
Brant (goose) – Episode 502, 12-9-19.
Canvasback (duck) – Episode 604, 11-22-21.
Common Goldeneye (duck) – Episode 303, 2/15/16.
Green-winged Teal (duck) – Episode 398, 12-11-17.
Grebes (Horned and Red-necked) – Episode 233, 9-29-14.
Loons – Episode 445, 11-5-18.
Fall migration – Episode 603, 11-15-21.
Northern Harrier – Episode 561, 1-25-21.
Snow Goose – Episode 507, 1/13/20.
Tundra Swan – Episode 554, 12-7-20.
Winter birds sampler from the Chesapeake Bay area – Episode 565, 2-22-21.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs

Grades K-3 plus 5: Matter
K.4 – Water is important in our daily lives and has properties.
2.3 – Matter can exist in different phases.

Grades K-5: Earth and Space Systems
K.9 – There are patterns in nature.
1.7 – There are weather and seasonal changes; including that changes in temperature, light, and precipitation affect plants and animals, including humans.
2.7 – Weather patterns and seasonal changes affect plants, animals, and their surroundings.
3.7 – There is a water cycle and water is important to life on Earth.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
3.8 – Natural events and humans influence ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Geography Theme
1.6 – Virginia climate, seasons, and landforms.

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

Following are links to other Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels (* indicates episode listed above in the “Related Water Radio Episodes” section).

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 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
*Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th 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.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20
– on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.