Cloud Flows

When viewed at the right pace, clouds can flow. This timelapse of fog over Mt. Tamalpais State Park near San Francisco shows clouds moving over the hills there. Physically, this flow is an example of a familiar phenomenon known as a hydraulic jump. It happens when a fast-moving flow moves into a region of slower flow. The kinetic energy of the incoming flow gets transferred into potential energy, causing the flow to suddenly rise in height. It can also trigger turbulence, as seen on the right side of the animation. Watch carefully along a river, and you’ll see the same thing happening. Or, if your kitchen sink has a flat bottom, you can create a circular hydraulic jump just by turning on the faucet. You’ll get a region of fast flow right where the water impacts the basin, and a little ways out, you’ll see a circular jump where the water is suddenly taller and slower. That’s a hydraulic jump, too! (Image credit: Nicholas Steinberg Photography, source; submitted by Madi R.)

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