Bubble Vortices

Vortices appear in scales both large and small, from your shower and the flap of an insect’s wing to cyclones and massive storms on other planets. Especially with these large-scale vortices, it can be difficult to understand the factors that affect their trajectories and intensities over time. Here researchers have studied the vortices produced on a heated half bubble for clues as to their long-term behavior. Heating the base of the bubble creates large thermal plumes which rise and generate large vortices, like the one seen above, on the bubble’s surface. Researchers observed the behavior of the vortices with and without rotation of the bubble. They found that rotating bubbles favored vortices near the polar latitudes of the bubble, just as planets like the Earth and Saturn have long-lived polar vortices. They also found that the intensification of both bubble vortices and hurricanes was reasonably captured by a single time constant, which may lead to better predictions of storm behaviors. Their latest paper is freely available here. (Image credit: H. Kellay et al.; research credit: T. Meuel et al.; via io9)

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