Image of the Day: Surrealistic Swirls in the Sky

An image from NASA's Landsat satellite shows swirls in clouds downwind of the Juan Fernandez Islands, off the coast of Chile. The repeating pattern of the swirls reveal what meteorologists refer to as a “von Karman vortex street,” named after one of the scientists who investigated these patterns, Theodore von Karman. According to NASA, a steady wind creates vortices that rotate clockwise off one end of the island, and counterclockwise off the other end, as the islands disturb the steady flow of air across the ocean. These vortices grow as they move downwind of the island. NASA has more information on von Karman vortices, and why they are an important consideration when constructing everything from airplane wings to concrete cooling towers.

Credit: NASA