The formation of calcium carbonate mineral scale is a persistent and expensive problem in oil and gas production, water piping systems, power generator, and batch precipitation. The aim of this paper is to further the understanding of scale formation and inhibition by in situ probing of crystal growth by synchrotron radiation wide angle X-ray scattering (WAXS) at ambient and elevated temperature. This novel technique enables in situ study of mineral scale formation and inhibition and as such, information on the nucleation and growth processes are accessible. This technique studies bulk precipitation and surface deposition in the same system and will be of great benefit to the understanding of an industrial scaling system. It offers an exciting prospect for the study of scaling. It has been shown that the nucleation and growth of various calcareous polymorphs and their individual crystal planes can be followed in real-time and from this the following conclusions are reached. • The process of scale deposition on the surface can be divided into an unstable phase and a stable phase. The initial phase of crystallization of calcium carbonate is characterized by instability with individual planes from various vaterite and aragonite polymorphs emerging and subsequently disappearing under the hydrodynamic conditions. After the initial unstable phase, various calcium carbonate crystal planes adhere on the surface and then grow on the surface. • At 25 °C, the main plane of surface deposit is calcite and a strong (104) peak is detected. The other calcite planes (102), (006), (110) (113) and (202) are hardly detectable under this condition. • At 80 °C, the main planes in the surface deposit are the (104), (113) and (110) planes of calcite. Stable planes of vaterite and aragonite are also observed. This paper will discuss how surface scale evolves - exploring the power of the synchrotron in situ methodology. © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2007.