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Strange Swirls Spied in the Clouds

Swirling clouds von Karman vortex
The von Karman vortex causes these swirled clouds. (Image credit: USGS EROS Data Center)

From NASA's Earth Observatory:

Each of these swirling clouds is the result of a meteorological phenomenon known as a von Karman vortex. These vortices appeared over Alexander Selkirk Island in the southern Pacific Ocean. Rising precipitously from the surrounding waters, the island’s highest point is nearly a mile (1.6 km) above sea level. As wind-driven clouds encounter this obstacle, they flow around it to form large, spinning eddies.

This image was acquired by Landsat 7’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper plus (ETM+) sensor on September 15, 1999. This is a false-color composite image made using shortwave infrared, infrared, and near-infrared wavelengths.

Live Science Staff
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