Press Herald speaks with Smith about Westbrook ice disk

The Portland Press Herald spoke with Sean Smith, an associate professor in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences at the University of Maine, for the article “City circles back on famous ice disk.” Westbrook made global headlines a year ago when a large, rotating ice disk appeared on the Presumpscot River. Now people are wondering if it will ever return, according to the article. “They are rare. I remember it was a new phenomenon for me,” said Smith. “I hadn’t looked into it before that event last year. There is actually a lot that factors into it.” According to Smith, it’s difficult to speculate without active data on the temperature of that portion of the river — a gradient in temperatures from the surface to the bottom of the river causes a vortex effect leading to ice forming at the surface in a spinning disk. “Areas with river bends can get current flows that can be a driver for disks as well,” said Smith. “Vortices of downward motion from top to bottom create the disk (the cold water sinking), and the bend in the river may help the water keep spinning the disk.”