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Behold frozen 'ghost apples,' courtesy of the polar vortex

The record cold turned Michigan orchards into rotten-applesauce factories, but then something remarkable happened.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Contributing editor Eric Mack covers space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Eric Mack

Ghost apples.

Posted by Andrew Sietsema on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Lots of fruits are out of season here in the northern hemisphere thanks to a rather harsh winter and a visit from our old friend, polar vortex.  But recent freezing rain in Michigan led to the production of a rare psuedo-crop: the ghost apple.

The above photos come from Andrew Sietsema, a former horticulture student at Michigan State University, who told WOOD-TV that the apple-shaped ice shells formed when the frozen precipitation coated the apples. When he pruned the trees, the shaking branches caused many of the icy apples to fall off, but in a few cases the entirety of the mushy, rotten apples just slipped through the bottom of the frozen shell. 

It's likely that the recent arctic blast from the polar vortex played a role in this unusual phenomenon. The sugar and acid content in fruits lowers the temperature at which they freeze by a few degrees, but the longer they're exposed to extreme cold, the worse the damage. 

Given that apples in the Great Lakes region were exposed to temperatures well below freezing for multiple days over the past couple weeks, it's no surprise some were turned to complete mush and simply ran out of the holes in the bottom of their icy shells.

The end result is a cool, ghostly shell that's just slightly less fragile but a lot more beautiful than a rotten, mushy apple.