Pancake Vortex

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In large-scale geophysical flows, rotation and density gradients often play major roles in the structures that form. Here the UCLA SPINLab demonstrates how large, essentially flat vortices–pancake vortices–form in rotating, stratified fluids. The stratification, in this case, is due to the density difference between salt water and fresh water; salt water is denser and therefore less buoyant, so it sinks toward the bottom of the tank. Note how the pancake vortex only forms when the fluid is both stratified and rotating.  If it lacks one of the two, the structures will be very different. (Video credit: O. Aubert et al./SPINLab UCLA)

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