Phenomena

Glorious Vortex Street

Vortex streets behind an island

Satellite imagery often reveals patterns we might struggle to see from the ground. Here Gaudalupe Island off the western coast of Mexico perturbs the atmosphere into a series of vortices. Air flowing across the open ocean gets deflected around and over the rocky, volcanic island, creating a line of vortices that get shed off one side of the island, then the other. The pattern is commonly referred to as a von Karman vortex street, and it appears in the wakes of spheres and cylinders, as well as islands. The two rainbow-like bands framing the vortex street are an optical phenomenon known as a glory, which NASA Earth Observatory explains here. (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

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