An ice disc, ice circle, or ice pan is a natural phenomenon that occurs in slow moving water in cold climates. Ice circles are thin and circular slabs of ice that rotate slowly in the water. It is believed that they form in eddy currents. Ice discs have most frequently been observed in Scandinavia and North America, but they are occasionally recorded as far south as England and Wales. An ice disc was observed in Wales in December 2008 and another was reported in England in January 2009. More recently, an ice disc was observed on the Sheyenne River in North Dakota in December 2013.
Ice circles vary in size but circles more than 15 metres (49 ft) in diameter have been observed.
Ice discs form on the outer bends in a river where the accelerating water creates a force called 'rotational shear', which breaks off a chunk of ice and twists it around. As the disc rotates, it grinds against surrounding ice — smoothing into a circle. A relatively uncommon phenomenon, one of the earliest recordings is of a slowly revolving disc spotted on the Mianus River and reported in an 1895 edition of Scientific American.
A collection of small ice pans (the largest about 12" (30 cm) in diameter) was observed on the River Llugwy at Betws-y-coed, North Wales in December 2008. A fortnight of no rain had resulted in low water levels, and there had been sub-zero temperatures for a week.
River specialist and geography professor Joe Desloges states that ice pans are "surface slabs of ice that form in the center of a lake or creek, instead of along the water’s edge. As water cools, it releases heat that turns into 'frazil ice' that can cluster together into a pan-shaped formation. If an ice pan accumulates enough frazil ice and the current remains slow, the pan may transform into a 'hanging dam', a heavy block of ice with high ridges low centre.