Weather watch: Have you seen a fogbow or ice-pancake?

Watch out for these incredible weather phenomena spotted in Scotland.

Frosty phenomenon: Ice pancakes.
Frosty phenomenon: Ice pancakes.

Temperatures are falling, there’s a nip in the air and that can make for some pretty striking weather phenomenon for us here in Scotland.

We’ve already been treated to some beautiful Aurora displays in the last few weeks but here are some other wonderfully weird and striking sights to look out for…


Fogbow in Oban by Frances Waite

A fogbow is an enchanting white rainbow formed out of water droplets.

Sometimes called a ‘white rainbow’ it is a similar phenomenon to a rainbow; however, as its name suggests, it appears as a bow in fog rather than rain.

Because of the very small size of water droplets that cause fog – smaller than 0.05 millimetres – the fog bow has only very weak colours, sometimes with a bluish inner edge.

A fogbow seen in clouds, typically from an aircraft looking downwards, is called a cloud bow.

In ancient times, mariners who caught sight of them would call fog bows sea-dogs.

Ice pancakes

These strange-looking formations, often resembling frozen lily pads, are called ice pancakes or pancake ice.

The ice discs form when waves jostle pieces of smooth ice against each other, rounding their edges.

As the resulting pancakes collide with the waves, they develop raised edges, making them look even more rounded.

Pancake ice is more commonly found in colder water, especially around Antarctica and in the Baltic Sea.

It can form anywhere when conditions are right, however, including on the Great Lakes of the United States and of course, Scotland.

The last big occurrence of them hit the international news in 2014 after National Geographic picked up the story of the little winter pancakes caught floating down the River Dee, but they were spotted as recently as earlier this year in January, again on the River Dee.

Ice pancakes can also eventually meld together to form sheet ice which, if the ice gets thick enough and the water rough enough, can fracture and pile up on itself forming ice ridges.

Rare ice pancakes spotted on River Carron

Ice pancakes have been spotted on the River Carron near Falkirk.The frozen disc is usually formed from freezing bubbles on the surface of the water and is quite a rare phenomenon.Have you spotted an ice pancake before?

Posted by STV News on Thursday, 24 January 2019

Snow rollers

Snow roller in South Lanarkshire by Eunice Clarke

One weather phenomenon that is particularly lovely is snow rollers.

A rare meteorological phenomenon, these are large snowballs which form naturally as chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind, picking up material along the way, in much the same way that we roll snowballs to make a snowman.

In this case, it is mother nature behind it, as strong winds blow the snow and create nature’s own snowballs.

Several were spotted in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire last year so as the winds pick up it is well worth keeping an eye out for these little wonders.


Thundersnow is an unusual kind of thunderstorm with snow falling as the primary precipitation instead of rain.

They are formed when thunderstorms take place in wintry conditions leading to a rise in heavy downpours of snow accompanied by thunder and lightning.

We last saw this phenomenon in the Highlands back in 2018.

Thundersnow is unusual because it can only occur in a few months of the year.

When thundersnow occurs at night the lightning appears brighter because the light reflects off the snowflakes.

If you spot any of these incredible winter weather phenomena this season we’d love to see them! Please share your photos and videos with us by emailing [email protected]