Marine stratocumulus clouds frequently form parallel rows, or cloud streets,
along the direction of wind flow. When the flow is interrupted by an obstacle
such as an island, a series of organized eddies can appear within the cloud
layer downwind of the obstacle. These turbulence patterns are known as von
Karman vortex streets. In these images from NASAs Multi-angle Imaging
SpectroRadiometer, an impressive vortex pattern continues for over 300 km southward of Jan Mayen island. Jan Mayen is an isolated territory of
Norway, located about 650 km northeast of Iceland in the north Atlantic
Ocean. Jan Mayens Beerenberg volcano rises about 2.2 km above the ocean
surface, providing a significant impediment to wind flow.
These MISR images were captured on June 6, 2001, during Terra orbit 7808. The
entire vortex street can be seen in the top panel, which is a natural-color view
from the instruments nadir (downward-looking) camera. The area covered measures
365 kilometers x 158 kilometers, and a cloud-clearing effect is apparent at the
vortex centers until finally closing on the sixteenth hole. The bottom panel
is a stereo anaglyph of a portion of the vortex street, compiled using data from
MISRs 26-degree forward and 70-degree backward viewing cameras. This view
covers an area of about 183 kilometers x 96 kilometers. Despite the vertical
exaggeration afforded by using widely separated angles, the relatively modest
height variation in the cloud layer implies a vertically stable atmosphere. To
facilitate stereo viewing, the images have been oriented with north at the left.
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Fluid dynamicist Theodore von Karman was the first to derive the conditions
under which these turbulence patterns occur. Von Karman was a professor of
aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology and one of the principal
founders of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory.