The Racetrack Playa has long held a mystery that baffled scientists: large rocks, sometimes weighing hundreds of pounds, would seem to glide across the dry lake bed, leaving trails behind them.

In 2013, the mystery was finally solved. Under certain conditions, the lake would freeze, with a thin sheet of ice on top of a thin layer of liquid water from rain the previous day. As the massive ice sheets on top began to break up in the breeze, they pushed the massive rocks along the ground.

This mysterious movement is only possible under a very specific set of conditions, and in some very unusual environments – like Racetrack Playa:

The first requirement is rain in a parched climate. Next, temperatures must fall low enough to freeze the water before it evaporates. Then the sun has to come out and thaw the ice. Finally, wind has to blow strongly enough to break the ice into floes and move it across shallow water underneath.

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