In meteorology the flow of atmospheric air over obstacles such as islands or isolated mountains sometimes gives birth to von Karman vortex streets. When a cloud layer is present at the relevant altitude, the streets become visible. Such cloud layer vortex streets have been photographed from satellites. The vortex street can reach over 400 km from the obstacle and the diameter of the vortices are normally 20-40 km. Continue reading
Named after physicist Theodore von Karman, who described the process that creates them in 1912, von Karman vortices are a type of spiraling cloud pattern that appears when winds are pushed around a blunt, high-profile area like an island or a mountain peak.
The vortices' distinctive swirl patterns are created by an alternating direction of rotation in the air as winds move around the island or peak. The pattern of the swirls can differ based on wind intensity.
If you watch for von Karman vortices on satellite, you may notice that as the prevailing winds change, so do the directions and structures of the vortices.
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