Nature does incredible things, and sometimes our technology is able to capture them! That’s exactly what happened over the weekend when the National Weather Service noticed an interesting cloud pattern on the satellite imagery over Guadalupe Island:
The NWS office for the Bay Area recognized the pattern as a Von Karman Vortex Street. A Von Karman Vortex Street is a repeating pattern of vortices, which you can see as the swirling ‘street’ in the clouds above. The chain of swirls is caused when a fluid is disturbed by some kind of tangible object. In this case the fluid is the atmosphere and the object is Guadalupe Island.
The same kind of pattern can be replicated by a rock in a stream, which interrupts the stream’s flow. The interruption of the stream causes the water to swirl around the rock, creating the vortices. The swirling is then ‘passed’ downstream, creating the ‘street’ of vortices that are seen coming from the object that originally caused the interruption.