Von Karman Vortex Streets in the Pacific Ocean

Von Karman Vortex Streets in the Pacific Ocean

Yesterday, May 24, 2017, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (aka VIIRS) instrument aboard NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP captured this true-color image of a cloud street below Isla Guadalupe, to the west of the Baja Peninsula. Cloud streets typically form long straight lines over large flat areas of the ocean. However, geological features, like islands and volcanoes, can disrupt the flow of the wind and create spiral patterns, not dissimilar to the way large boulders create downstream eddies in rivers. The spirals, called von Karman vortex streets, were named after Theodore von Karman, a co-founder of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was one of the first scientists to describe this type of atmospheric phenomenon.

HiRes Image

Courtesy of NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory