Daniel Swain in National Geographic: Scientists spot a ‘space hurricane’ for the first time
Scientists suspected that vortexes could form high in Earth’s atmosphere, but this is the first time one has been seen twirling the northern lights like a baton. As the study authors acknowledge, comparisons to the hurricanes born atop Earth’s oceans aren’t perfect. Both have calm eyes, and matter spins around the eye at breakneck speeds in spiral arms. “The analogy is certainly evocative,” says Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles who wasn’t involved with the research. But, he notes, the two are fundamentally different things. A hurricane is essentially a heat engine that extracts energy from the oceans in the tropics and transfers it to the poles. The physical processes involved with a space hurricane are entirely different.