Black Ice: What You Need to Know

Icy Road SignLet’s get this straight.  There is “ice” and there is “black ice”, a subset of ice.  Not all ice is black ice.

Unfortunately, anytime people want to make ice seem especially treacherous and dangerous, it becomes black ice.  This is especially the case when overly-excited reporters report on winter storms which almost always results in black ice abuse, the reckless — and incorrect — overuse of “black ice.”

Black ice is the stuff that forms in bitterly cold weather on roads when condensation such as that from car exhaust freezes on what would otherwise be a dry road.  It creates a thin, icy layer that blends in with the pavement making it nearly invisible, most often where cars idle, such as at an intersection.  This ice sometimes appears black, but not necessarily so.

Beautiful Icy RoadNearly all other ice forms when precipitation falls and freezes or thaws and freezes on roads and sidewalks.  Sometimes it is dark or black, usually it is just grey or white…it is only frozen snow or slush…but in the too often today it has to be Black Ice!  It is more dramatic.

Black versus white.  Dark, menacing, dangerous…exactly what the news needs.  It’s a cultural norm, after all.  Doesn’t the bandit wear a black mask, the cattle rustler a black hat, the Catwoman a black catsuit?  Yes!  (Although with moody stage lighting the catsuit might appear to be purple.  Don’t be fooled.)  Naturally, therefore, if you’re striving to make news out of ice, you call it Black Ice.

So join me, please and put a stop to the misuse and overuse of black ice!  (It’s just ice, damn it!  Unless it isn’t.)


One thought on “Black Ice: What You Need to Know

  1. Dan

    Lived in Minnesota most of my life. Recently moved to North Carolina. I am really annoyed by the ignorant and over-use of the term “Black Ice” in the news here. Your blog nailed it. Sensationalism at it’s best. Nowadays we could even label it “fake news”. I want to call every news station down here and scream “It just frigg’n ICE. When water freezes it forms ICE. ICE is slippery, slow down when driving on it!” Black ice is more dangerous than ice for one very specific reason. It happens when there has been no precipitation therefore you are not expecting it. The conditions are dry, the pavement is dry and its too cold to rain or snow…that is when black ice strikes!


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