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Scientists think eddies are the cause

  • Most of the rings appear in March or April and have diameters of about 3 to 4 miles.
  • Some rings were ephemeral, lasting a day or two. Others persisted for weeks or even months.
  • The ice rings have also been attributed to elaborate hoaxes and even the activities of aliens.

Strange ice rings in Siberia’s Lake Baikal have puzzled scientists for decades, but now the mystery apparently has been solved.

The answer: The rings are caused by warm, circular currents of water under the ice, called eddies. 

The eddies’ strong currents melt the ice at the edge, but weaker ones keep the center frozen. 

“Results of our field surveys show that … there are warm eddies that circulate in a clockwise direction under the ice cover,” said Alexei Kouraev, a hydrologist at the University of Toulouse, in a NASA statement

An ice ring that almost 2 miles wide was seen on Lake Baikal on April 1, 2016.

“In the eddy center, the ice does not melt – even though the water is warm – because the currents are weak,” he said. “But on the eddy boundary, the currents are stronger, and warmer water leads to rapid melting.”

During field work, Kouraev and his colleagues drilled holes near ice rings and deployed sensors capable of measuring the temperature and salinity of the water to a depth of 700 feet. Typically the water in the eddies was 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding water. 

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