Swirls in the Wake

A true-color satellite image showing von Karman vortices shedding around Guadalupe Island.

Rocky islands make excellent atmospheric swirls, as seen here around Guadalupe Island. Winds blowing in from the ocean get forced up and around the island’s topography, resulting in vortices that shed alternately from either side of the island. The pattern they form is known as a von Karman vortex street and is easily seen in satellite imagery, thanks to the swirls that can persist for tens of kilometers downstream. Personally, I never get tired of this one! (Image credit: NASA/GSFC/JPL; video credit: NOAA/CIRA; via Dakota Smith; submitted by @SellaTheChemist)

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