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A beach on Lake Michigan looked almost prehistoric earlier this month as tiny sand sculptures – created by the frigid weather – dotted the shoreline.
They are known as ‘sand hoodoos,’ named after the naturally formed, thin rock spires normally found in canyons. But the ones that popped up along the shore of Lake Michigan near St. Joseph, Michigan, are made by a combination of strong wind, frozen moisture in sand and erosion.
The sand sculptures can be up to 15 inches tall in the area, which is about 82 miles from Grand Rapids, and are a yearly occurrence, with some resembling chess pieces.
But they don’t last. Unlike their rock counterparts, sand hoodoos usually collapse within hours as the weather warms throughout the day.
‘It was like a different planet,’ Terri Abbott told Fox Weather. ‘I’ve never seen anything like them and I spend a lot of time there!’
Tiny sand hoodoos appeared along the shorelines of St. Joseph in Michigan, roughly 80 miles from Grand Rapids, during cold and windy days in January
Some of the sand hoodoos reached up to 15 inches, the tallest Michigan has seen
The hoodoos were seen in Tescornia Park in southwestern Michigan
Sand hoodoos are tiny formations that form from strong winds and erosion, and are a yearly occurrence near Lake Michigan
Abbott saw them in Tescornia Park in the southwestern Michigan city.
Michigan photographer Joshua Nowicki said this year’s were the ‘tallest ones that I have ever photographed.’
Western Michigan has been experiencing the perfect weather for sand hoodoo creations with freezing temperatures and brutal winds blowing in throughout January, he said.
Sand hoodoos are found in cold, windy locations along Lake Michigan.
‘I imagine what happened is that the sand is frozen. Then we had a big storm roll through a couple weeks ago with strong winds. The wind blew along the beach and blasted out the areas that were a little less frozen,’ said Geology Chairman at Michigan State University Alan Arbogast.
He mused that the sand hoodoos actually look more like ventifacts, a creation similar to hoodoos where rocks are sandblasted by wind and appear to have a smooth finish.
‘Those things aren’t being built up. Everything around the features that are standing up was eroded from it. Those are the things that are left behind,’ Arbogast told Fox Weather.
The tiny sand hoodoos usually collapse within hours, but can last up to a few days. Real hoodoos, which are made of rock or clay, can last centuries
Hoodoos are typically found in drier regions, but sand hoodoos occur along Lake Michigan due to the freezing temperatures and high winds
Rock hoodoos are seen across the US and Europe. The highest concentration can be found in Bryce National Park in southwestern Utah, creating an amphitheater in the Paunsaugunt Plateau in the park.
Hoodoos in Bryce and Putangirua Pinnacles in New Zealand can be 200 feet high, range in color, and be made out of volcanic rock, clay, and other natural materials.
How do rock hoodoos form and some of the world’s most famous
Hoodoos can form in many ways from wind to acid rain that erodes away stone or frozen sand.
The sturdier ones, like the ones in Bryce National Park in Utah, are often made of stone or volcanic rock. The ones made of sand typically do not last more than a few days and, although similarly shaped, are not considered actually hoodoos.
The formations are made through weathering and stream erosion. The phenomenon can occur throughout several regions of the world, but mainly occur in hot and dry areas, like New Zealand and Italy, as well as desert areas, like Utah.
They are also known as tent rocks, fairy chimneys, and earth pyramids.
Bryce National Park – Utah
The beautiful hoodoos dot the Utah horizon in various shades of red, orange, and white
The highest concentrations of hoodoos can be found in southwestern Utah in Bryce National Park.
It can be found in the Paunsaugunt Plateau, which extends 20 miles, and in the other natural amphitheaters throughout the park.
They were formed through headward erosion, which is erosion at the origin of a stream channel.
The stunning view of the amphitheater is littered with red, orange, and white rocks that can reach up to 200 feet high.
Putangirua Pinnacles – New Zealand
The Putangirua Pinnacles were used as a filming location in the Lord of the Rings
New Zealand is already known for it’s beautiful landscapes and the Putangirua Pinnacles one of the country’s most renown.
Located at the southern tip of the North Island, these rock formations were created centuries ago by sediment gravel that got washed down from the eroding mountains.
These formations have been forming for 120,000 years and have been formed through the Putangirua Stream.
It was also used as a filming location in the Lord of the Rings.
Earth Pyramids of Ritten – Italy
The Earth Pyramids in Italy are considered the tallest in Europe, standing at 50 feet
Surrounded by colorful evergreens, these spiky rock formations are composed of moraine clay soil.
The hoodoos started forming back in the Ice Age and have been eroding for 25,000 years.
Unlike Bryce National Park and the Putangirua Pinnacles, which are rectangular, these hoodoos are cone-shaped.
These clay formations are located on the Ritten, which is a local commune that sits on a high plateau.
Italy’s earth pyramids are considered the tallest in Europe, with some reaching up to 50 feet.
Source: Treehugger and Geography Realm