Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Western Montana woke up this week to a stunning sight; trees, shrubs, weeds, even fences coated with a covering of glittering ice, called hoarfrost.

Was it elves, leprechauns, fairies, or just Jack Frost working his magic? Turns out, it was Mother Nature herself who was responsible for the amazing display.

The Stunning Beauty of Hoarfrost is a Natural Phenomenon

Fascinated by this phenomenon, KGVO News reached out to National Weather Service Meteorologist Brian Conlin for a scientific explanation of this unusual phenomenon.

“When we start to cool off like this, the temperature will get closer to the dew point,” began Conlin. “You know, during the winter, it's pretty dry. You might touch things and you get a little static electricity, but there's just enough moisture that when we cool off into the teens or even single digits, it'll form fog; and that fog doesn't move too much, but as it moves along, it does something called deposition where the water vapor in the air will just turn straight to ice.”

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The Air Freezes so Quickly that 'It Captures the Air'

Conlin continued with the scientific facts about hoarfrost.

“Because it freezes so fast it will capture some of the air or in the atmosphere,” he said. “That’s what gives it the opaque or the white-grayish color that you see that climbs up the vegetation or on the tree branches and wires, fences, or anything like that because it freezes so fast it captures the air.”

The perfect conditions for hoarfrost occurred in western Montana this week.

Western Montana had the Perfect Conditions for Hoarfrost

“That's when the moisture really gets trapped at the surface and doesn't mix that much, and then once the surface temperature cools generally overnight, especially on a clear night, this has been happening under fog, but when it cools, the temperature will come down to the dew point temperature,” he said. “Then once you have that, that's when the hoarfrost can start to develop because the atmosphere becomes saturated.”

As the temperatures begin to rise in western Montana the hoarfrost will melt away, since there is a chance of light snow in the forecast from the National Weather Service.

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