Reader Questions

Reader Question: Rib Vortices

Reader tarastarr1 asks:

For the (awesome) wave gif and explanation, I think the asker was wondering about that little branch-like projection you can see in the top-middle part of the gif right after the camera submerges. Your explanation of the wave is great, but now I’m also wondering: if the wave is so powerful, how can that little jet form?

I think you’re probably right about the original question. I actually didn’t even notice that tiny vortex until after the post went up today! I think the little vortex is probably similar to the rib vortices I referenced at the end of the last post. If there happened to be some small localized rotation in the water initially, the wave’s passage would stretch it out. Stretching a vortex causes it to spin faster, exactly the way that an ice skater pulling her arms in causes her to spin faster – conservation of angular momentum! In that situation, the wave’s passage actually strengthens the vortex rather than destroying it.

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