Scientists Discover New Type Of Storm As 1,000 Km Puddle In The Sky Forms
Some of the world’s biggest phenomena are up above the clouds; the northern lights; shooting stars and, this latest one a little closer to home; a gigantic puddle floating in the clouds.
Scientists have discovered what’s called ‘atmospheric lakes’, aka pools of concentrated water vapour which can last for days up in the clouds, floating up above the Indian Ocean.
According to research published in the American Geophysical Union (AGU), atmospheric scientists Brian Mapes and Wei-Ming Tsai discovered these giant sky puddles while studying what they say is a typically overlooked region of the world.
They analysed five years worth of satellite data for the region and examined daily rain and water vapour patterns when they found these atmospheric lakes were formed by ‘atmospheric rivers’.
Atmospheric rivers are long, thin, extremely fast-moving plumes of concentrated moisture which can stretch for thousands of kilometres and can carry a colossal amount of water. These atmospheric rivers then dump a huge pile of rain in their wake.
The team behind the research said that atmospheric lakes start as atmospheric rivers, which ‘pinch off’ from the river and form isolated pools of concentrated water vapour. These pools could form the equivalent of a shallow, 1,000 km-wide puddle just a few centimetres in depth.
During the study, 17 of these atmospheric lakes were discovered, occurring in all seasons and usually no more than 10 degrees away from the equator. The researchers added that atmospheric lakes can form further away from the equator too, which sometimes turn into tropical cyclones.
‘It’s a place that’s dry on average, so when these [atmospheric lakes] happen, they’re surely very consequential,’ Mapes said. ‘I look forward to learning more local knowledge about them, in this area with a venerable and fascinating nautical history where observant sailors coined the word monsoon for wind patterns, and surely noticed these occasional rainstorms, too.’
There are now plans to study the atmospheric lakes further to see if they are affected by climate change at all.
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