Observations of strange ice rings on Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, have puzzled scientists for decades. Surveys of satellite imagery have revealed rings on Baikal and two other lakes dating back to the 1960s and some of our earliest satellite images. The rings are roughly 5-7 km in diameter, with a dark layer of thin ice about 1 km wide around a brighter layer of thick ice.
A new study, buoyed in part by on-the-ground observations during Siberian winter, argues that the ice rings observed on the surface are related to eddies of warmer water circulating below. The researchers were able to capture several eddies in their measurements, including one migratory one. The size, shape, and location of these sub-surface eddies are consistent with ice ring appearance. The kilometers’ wide eddies are several degrees warmer at shallow depths and rotate approximately once every 3 days.
The researchers suspect the eddies form long before the ice does. Infrared observations in late autumn suggest the eddies form from a combination of wind and influx of river water into the lakes. Then, as ice does form, it’s affected by the underlying circulation. (Image credits: NASA, 1, 2; research credit: A. Kouraev et al.; via Gizmodo)