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No. 50: Mar-Apr 1987

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More On The Soviet Plume Events

A recent issue of Eos, published by the American Geophysical Union, presents some amazing and at the same time unsettling photographs of immense plumes taken by satellites passing over Soviet Arctic islands. Eleven such events are tabulated from October 12, 1980, to June 12, 1986. Perhaps the most dramatic event occurred on March 12, 1982, over Novaya Zemlya. The picture shows a sharply etched tongue of cold vapor arcing some 175 kilometers at a maximum altitude of 9.5-10 kilometers. As with most of the plumes, movement of the vapor does not correspond to wind direction. Volcanic activity and natural methane gas releases are considered unlikely explanations. Since the islands involved are used for Soviet weapons tests, the plumes may be due to some incredibly energetic devices, although no radioactive releases or seismic activity seem correlated with the plume appearances. Queries to Soviet scientists have gone unanswered.

(Anonymous; "Large Plume Events in the Soviet Arctic," Eos, 67:1372, 1986.)

From Science Frontiers #50, MAR-APR 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss