Huge Fraser River ice chunks wash up in Agassiz, B.C.

People admire and photograph the melting ice chunks on the banks of the Fraser River in Agassiz, B.C. on Friday, December 30, 2022.  (Ken Leedham/CBC - image credit)
People admire and photograph the melting ice chunks on the banks of the Fraser River in Agassiz, B.C. on Friday, December 30, 2022. (Ken Leedham/CBC - image credit)

An earth sciences professor says large chunks of ice formed in the Fraser River and washed ashore near Agassiz B.C. were likely caused by unseasonably cold weather from earlier in December.

They were first spotted on the shores near the Agassiz-Rosedale bridge Wednesday afternoon, which is about an hour and 30 minute drive east of Vancouver.

People have been posing among the ice chunks and posting on social media about the phenomenon.

Submitted by Valerie Pentz
Submitted by Valerie Pentz

'Person-high blocks of ice'

The chunks are a result of unusually frigid temperatures in the province last week, according to SFU earth sciences professor Brent Ward.

"They're big," he said. "It really shows we had a pretty good cold snap to freeze. It's almost person-high blocks of ice so that's pretty impressive."

Ward said chunks of ice likely formed somewhere upstream in the Fraser River during the cold spell.

Submitted by Valerie Pentz
Submitted by Valerie Pentz

Then, with the warmer weather and rain the region experienced this week, the ice broke up into blocks and floated downstream.

Ward says this commonly happens in colder parts of the province in the spring when river ice starts to break up. He said it is unusual to occur in December.

Ken Leedham/CBC
Ken Leedham/CBC

The narrow river passage near the Agassiz bridge coupled with the low waterline are likely what caused these large chunks of floating ice to get stuck along the shores, said Ward.

Ward says sometimes when ice forms a physical barrier it can cause an ice jam. It results in water building up behind it and can lead to rapid flooding.

But in this case, the ice appears to be melting slowly.

"I don't think we have to worry about any flooding out there," said Ward.

Ken Leedham/CBC
Ken Leedham/CBC

Footage taken from the area Friday afternoon show the slabs have begun melting and have shrunk in size.

Ward says people should be cautious if they chose to walk among the blocks, and warns against walking far out beyond the waterline.

Ice chunks like these are not likely to return soon, according to Alyssa Charbonneau, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada .

She said temperatures in January are expected to be warmer than normal.

"At least for now we don't see a return to the cold that we saw during the middle of December," said Charbonneau.