Phenomena

Cloud Streets from Space

Cloud streets flowing south across Bristol Bay hit the Shishaldin and Pavlof volcanoes, which part the air flow into distinctive swirls called von Karman vortex streets. As air flows around the volcano, a vortex is shed first on one side, then the other. Although the usual example for this type of flow is the wake of a cylinder, vortex streets can extend behind any non-aerodynamic body immersed in a flow. The same phenomenon is responsible for the singing of power lines in the wind.  As astronaut Dan Burbank observes, “It’s classic aerodynamics, but on a thousands of miles scale.” (Photo credit: Dan Burbank, NASA)

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