February 01, 2002
This SeaWiFS image from January 30, 2000 shows an impressive looking storm system, just to the north of the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. However, it's just a shallow vortex pattern with relatively low clouds. What appear to be ridges on the flat ice of the ice shelf are actually storm clouds and their shadows. While storms can occur during any month in Antarctica, they occur less frequently during the brief Antarctic summer. These storms advect heat as well as moisture to coastal and, on occasion, interior areas of Antarctica. By agitating the sea surface, storm winds may slow or even stop sea ice formation. Polar cyclonic storms have some similarities to tropical cyclones, for instance, they generally have a circular shape. However, polar storms tend to strengthen more quickly than their tropical and mid latitude counterparts, and they travel faster. Note the striking contrast between the ice free ocean water and the bright white Ross Ice Shelf.