Phenomena

Island Vortex Street

Von Karman vortex streets are a pattern of alternating vortices shed in the wake of a bluff body. They’re commonly associated with cylinders and can be demonstrated in simulation and in the lab. (They even show up in supersonic flows.) But they also show up in nature quite frequently, like in this cloud pattern off Central America. Such wakes often occur downstream of rocky, volcanic islands that rise above the smooth ocean surface and disrupt the atmosphere’s boundary layer. The same phenomenon is responsible for the “singing” of electrical lines on a windy day, and I’ve even heard it make the spokes on my bicycle wheel sing in a crosswind. (Photo credit: R. Mastracchio; via @BadAstronomer; submitted by jshoer)

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