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No. 87: May-Jun 1993

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Amazons In The Sky

No, we are not talking about the jet streams. Rather, we refer to the curious "filamentary structures" seen on water-vapor maps of the troposphere. (The troposphere is roughly the lower 10-20 kilometers of the atmosphere.) These filaments are many times longer than they are wide, and deserve to be called "rivers." These aerial streams of water vapor develop in regular patterns and persist as they are translated through the troposphere. It is the huge quantity of water vapor carried by these aerial rivers that make them worthy of note here. Especially remarkable is the river that frequently flows south from Brazil to east of the Andes and thence southeast into the Atlantic.

"A typical flow in this South American tropospheric river is very close to that in the Amazon (about 165 x 106 kg sec-1). There are typically five rivers leading into the middle latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere and four or five leading into the Northern Hemisphere. The rivers persist for 10 days or more while being translated generally eastwards at speeds of 6 m sec-1 ."

(Newell, Reginald E., et al; "Tropospheric Rivers?-A Pilot Study," Geo physical Research Letters, 19:2401, 1992.)

From Science Frontiers #87, MAY-JUN 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987