Swirling clouds in the night sky • Earth.com

Last update: January 17th, 2020 at 8:00 am

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features swirling cloud patterns in the night sky over the coast of Morocco.

The cloud designs, known as von Kármán vortices, developed as the winds flowed around small islands in the North Atlantic.

Just like a fluid, the atmosphere changes its flow and direction when it runs into a barrier. 

In this case, as faster winds moved past slower winds, the airflow was disturbed by the islands below.

The patterns of these types of “vortex streets” are shaped by the intensity of the wind.

“This is a spectacular satellite image,” said Paul Beggs, an associate professor at Macquarie University. “I don’t recall having seen an image of von Kármán vortices at nighttime previously, so I would consider it rare.” 

The photograph was captured on July 19, 2019 by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite. 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory


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